Mike Hanley

Mike Hanley

Armstrong out-Krafts Creston for win

Armstrong has 25,000 reasons to celebrate.

Armstrong has 25,000 reasons to celebrate.

The North Okanagan community is the B.C. winner of the 2011 Kraft Celebration Tour, beating out the Kootenay community of Creston.

The announcement was made Tuesday afternoon on TSN’s Sportscentre program with a crowd of 200 gathered at the Nor-Val Sports Centre watching on the arena’s big screens.

As the winner, Armstrong will receive $25,000 for upgrades to the Hassen Arena and will host TSN when the cable giant broadcasts its Sportscentre show from the community next month.

“Obviously we are just elated with the community engagement on this project,” said Armstrong Coun. Ryan Nitchie, who spearheaded the city’s bid in the contest.

“The army of volunteers we had out during the voting was absolutely phenomenal. I had about 600 e-mail and Facebook messages from people updating me on how many times they were voting. People obviously care about Armstrong and it’s nice to win the money and have TSN come for a visit.”

Voting between the two B.C. communities was conducted online from Monday at 9 a.m. to Tuesday at 9 a.m.

In Armstrong, a celebration zone was set up Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Bridge Street, outside of city hall and the Armstrong-Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce. People donated their laptops to help with the online voting. The street was closed for that eight-hour period, and Askew’s Foods conducted a free barbecue which drew approximately 400 people.

The celebration zone carried on at the Nor-Val Sports Centre Monday night during game one of the Armstrong Shamrocks-Kamloops Venom Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League semifinal.

“So many people stayed up so late voting into the wee hours of the morning,” said Nitchie, who stayed up until 2 a.m. voting, got a bit of sleep, then continued clicking on the ballot button on the Kraft Celebration Tour website until the 9 a.m. deadline.

“We had shift workers voting online. Unfortunately for a lot of North Okanagan businesses, Monday probably wasn’t a very productive day.”

Nitchie said Armstrong had voting support from Sweden, Australia and other parts of the world, including fellow Kraft Celebration Tour nominees Wallaceburg and Trenton, Ont., who battled Tuesday.

Wallaceburg, said Nitchie, is a big lacrosse community, similar to Armstrong.

It’s believed TSN will be in Armstrong on Friday, Aug. 19, to broadcast their Sportscentre show.

“We would never have enough funds to attract somebody like TSN to come for a visit,” said Patti Noonan, Armstrong-Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce executive director who also sat on the Armstrong bid committee.

“This will be great for us in terms of exposure, and it’s a chance to celebrate our community spirit. We hope there may be some economic spin-off from this.”

It will also be a refreshing victory for Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper, who will now receive 10 cases of legendary Kokanee beer, brewed in Creston at the Columbia Brewing Company.