For some volunteers in Hay River, what might have been considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to volunteer at a hometown Arctic Winter Games has become twice in a lifetime.

Rita Kovatch and Paulette Broekaert helped with the games co-hosted by Hay River and Pine Point in 1978, and once again this year when Hay River co-hosted with Fort Smith.

Rita Kovatch volunteered at both the 1978 and 2008 Arctic Winter Games. Paul Bickford/NNSL photos

“It makes me pretty happy because I didn’t think I would ever see the Arctic Winter Games in Hay River again because they’ve gotten so big and for us to accommodate them is pretty amazing,” said Rita Kovatch. “Even though we shared it with Fort Smith, it’s still surprising that they did it. There’s a three-hour drive to Fort Smith.”

This year, Kovatch fed games’ volunteers at the Ski Club with food donated by residents of the community.

“When I came here they told me there was no food, so I just got a hold of everyone in the community and I had people donate food, as well as I cooked food myself and I brought it out here to the Ski Club,” she said.

Kovatch noted she fed up to 75 people in one day.

She said the support from the community was awesome.

“I had no food to give anyone,” she said. “So I posted it on Facebook and I said, ‘Please help me feed the volunteers.’ And people showed up in droves with homemade chilli, and homemade stew and homemade bread, bannock, veggie trays, fruit trays, baking galore.”

Back in 1978, she helped her husband provide music for a nightly dance for athletes at the community hall, plus she chaperoned the event.

Paulette Broekaert worked in the administrative office at the 1978 Arctic Winter Games and volunteered with food services this year.

In 1978, Paulette Broekaert worked in the office of the administration staff for the games.

The experience was “immensely” enjoyable, she said. “The camaraderie and the atmosphere was something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. And having the games here now brings back a lot of great memories.”

This year, Broekaert volunteered with food services.

She said she never thought she would be working again on at AWG in Hay River.

“No. Not in a lifetime,” she said.

Broekaert said she was excited, surprised and happy when Hay River and Fort Smith won the right to host the Arctic Winter Games.

She noted the games are now quite a bit bigger, but the atmosphere, the camaraderie and the friendliness of everyone are all the same.


Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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