Thousands crowd TSN broadcast

TSN Sportscentre anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O
TSN Sportscentre anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole belt out Bon Jovi's Living On A Prayer while legendary 'Producer Tim' checks out the scripts prior to Friday's live 3 p.m. broadcast from downtown Armstrong, kicking off the TSN Kraft Celebration Tour.
— image credit: lisa VanderVelde/ Morning Star

Dale and Joanne Onrait always thought their son, Jay, had a bit of a goofy side.

And, of course, now, thousands across Canada get to see the Onrait’s pride and joy showing off that goofiness as one of the hilarious anchors on TSN’s Sportscentre.

On Friday, Dale and Joanne ventured from their home in Kelowna to see their son do his schtick – and do it well – with partner Dan O’Toole.

A crowd estimated at close to 4,000 jammed Pleasant Valley Boulevard in downtown Armstrong to watch a live broadcast of Sportscentre under scorching North Okanagan skies.

The event marked the beginning of the TSN Kraft Celebration Tour. Armstrong won the B.C. portion.

“It’s great to see Jay on TV, he’s doing well, but, yes, he’s a little silly sometimes,” smiled Dale, who, along with Joanne, moved to the Okanagan from Athabasca, Alta. “But he’s always been like that.”

This is the third year of the TSN Kraft Celebration tour but the first time the event has come to the North Okanagan.

“It’s neat to see it here in Armstrong, and it’s our first time to one of these events. The crowd here is amazing,” said Dale, whose son, along with O’Toole, engaged the overflowing crowd a half-hour before, and during the live show, by singing and dancing along with three members of the B.C. Lions’ Felions dance squad.

Jay Onrait acknowledged his parents during the show, as mom and dad were given a couple of seconds on camera in the crowd.

“They came for the sunshine and stayed for the wine,” joked Onrait about the folks’ move to the Okanagan.

Prior to the 3 p.m., broadcast, North Okanagan Kraft representative Kate Colbeck presented the Armstrong Kraft tour organizing committee with a cheque for $25,000, their reward for winning the B.C. portion of the tour. The money will be used to upgrade Hassen Arena.

“You rock, Armstrong,” said Colbeck to the noisy, appreciative crowd. “Thanks to (Coun.) Ryan Nitchie’s compelling essay and Armstrong’s incredible community spirit and hometown pride, you have won $25,000 to upgrade the Hassen Arena.”

Nitchie, joined on the TSN stage by his two daughters and the organizing committee, was overwhelmed by the large turnout.

“What a day,” he smiled. “Look at this crowd. This is why we entered the contest. To engage the community and because we knew we’d get their support.”

A crew of more than 30 organized the entire broadcast, complete with set construction. Floor manager Ellen Pfeffer, a native of Kitimat, is on her second Kraft tour.

“On show day, we get to the event about five hours before the live broadcast and check to make sure everything is working fine,” said Pfeffer, who helped keep the crowd cheering during the show and commercial breaks by encouraging them to shake free boxes of Kraft Dinner.

During the broadcast, Onrait and O’Toole played clips of some of their antics in their 48 hours in the North Okanagan, including a stint on roller skates on the floor of the Hassen Arena with the Raggedy Rollers roller derby squad.

A feature on the Rollers was played during the live broadcast, and inspired Sportscentre’s daily top-10 feature of top-10 spills. Onrait and O’Toole, however, stayed upright during their stint on skates.

The thousands who took part in Friday’s activities enjoyed free barbecue burgers and hot dogs from Kraft, Cheez Whiz samples, a Jello bouncy castle for the kids, and plenty more.

O’Toole and Onrait threw hats and t-shirts into the large crowd  during commercial breaks.

“When we say we enjoy being in your town, we mean it and not because we want to get pelted with Kraft Dinner,” added O’Toole. “We say it from our heart. We love your town.”

O’Toole made an impression on Deep Creek General Store employee  Marissa Bruneau. She chased after O’Toole for an autograph after he left the store.

“He bought some cough drops and I had him sign the receipt,” smiled Bruneau, 15.

Her friend Julia Bargery met the pair at an autograph session Thursday at Askew’s Foods and was given a nickname by Onrait.

“He called me ‘Zombie girl’ because my t-shirt said ‘Have you seen my pet zombie?’” laughed Bargery, 14.

Both teens thought it was cool that TSN was in Armstrong, as did longtime resident Pat McGregor, 49, who had his son, Ryan, with him.

“I think it’s absolutely great for the community and the attention it brings to our little corner of the world,” said McGregor, vice-president of a steelworkers union. “The arena can really use the money.”

At the end of the show, Onrait and O’Toole donned Armstrong Shamrocks lacrosse jerseys and fell back off the stage and did some crowd surfing.


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