The Canada Games started in February 1967 and are held every two years, alternating between summer and winter games. The 1995 Canada Winter Games were held in Grande Prairie, Alberta from February 19 to March 4, with some additional venues in Jasper. At the time, Grande Prairie was the smallest city to ever host the Games and only the second Alberta city (after Lethbridge in 1975) to do so. Twenty-one sports were featured at the games with 2517 athletes, 617 coaches and managers, 8000 volunteers, and 115 staff. The theme for the Games was “Capture the Vision”.
In January 1989, the federal government announced that the 1995 Games would be held in Alberta. Tom Thompson and George Keen started putting together a bid, enlisting the help of Games consultant Ian Howard and bid volunteers. A Site Evaluation Day was held on September 18, 1990 with representatives of the Canada Games Council and federal government visiting Grande Prairie and Jasper. On November 9, 1990, it was announced that Grande Prairie had won the bid.
The 1995 Grande Prairie Canada Winter Games Host Society incorporated as a not-for-profit organization with a mission: “We are dedicated to creating a positive climate for an unparalleled celebration of sport and culture which will leave the athlete and all those touched by their involvement in the 1995 Canada Games with a legacy rich in memories, new opportunities and pride as Canadians.”
The Host Society Board of Governors was led by Mayor Gord Graydon of Grande Prairie and was composed of the mayors, reeves, and chief executive officers of all cities, town, villages, municipalities, Indian bands, counties, and improvement districts in northwestern Alberta and northeastern BC. The Board of Governors met at least once a year to advise the Host Society on the spirit and values of the Games and to communicate between communities and Society.
The Host Society Board of Directors was also led by Mayor Gord Graydon and was composed of local and regional government representatives, education representatives, venue representatives, and Host Society Management Committee members. The Board of Directors met quarterly to support and advise the Host Society Management Committee in Games preparations and administration and to approve the Society’s capital and operating budgets.
The Host Society Management Committee was led by President H. J. (Tom) Thompson, Senior Vice President Alex Figel, and General Manager Kerry T. Moynihan. The Management Committee had fifteen divisions, each led by a vice-president: Administration/Volunteer Services (Judy Laughy), Athletes’ Village (John Webster), Culture (Carol-Lee Eckhardt), Facilities (George Keen), Finance (Fred Estlin), Friends of the ’95 Games (Bill Bowes and Turk Taylor), Health and Medical Services (Dr. Hilary Wynters), Jasper (Roger Smolnicky), Language Services (Marie Stevens), Legal Counsel (Lyle Carlstrom), Logistics (Bill McCubbin), Marketing (Wayne Jobb), Protocol and Ceremonies (Grant Menzies), Special Projects (Perky McCullough), and Sport (Rick Hryciuk). The Management Committee also included the Executive Assistant to the President (Debbie Smith), Alberta Community Development representative (Dwight Ganske), Federal Government Representative (Sandra Green), and Canada Games Council representatives and met monthly. Divisional volunteers and staff met monthly until January 1995, weekly thereafter, and daily during Games.
The Host Committee obtained $2 million each from the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. They also had additional federal support from the Department of Canadian Heritage, Human Resources Development (Unemployment Insurance Job Creation Program), Department of National Defence, Translation Bureaus, and for Canada House; additional provincial support from Environmental Protection, Public Works (Supply and Safety), Transportation and Utilities, Alberta Health, Alberta Community Development and Alberta Foundation of the Arts, and Alberta Lotteries; and additional municipal support with facilities, venues, services, and capital funding for the Canada Games Arena. Major Sponsors and Official Suppliers included Pepsi/Gray Beverages Inc., Xerox Canada, Sun Ice Ltd., Weyerhaueser, AGT Ltd., AGT Mobility, AGT Directory, County of Grande Prairie, General Motors of Canada, Air Canada, Alberta Tourism Education Council/Alberta Best, IGA, CBC/SRC, UNISYS, Daily Herald Tribune, Bowes Publishers Limited, The Calgary and Edmonton Suns, Alberta Power/Northwestern Utilities/ATCO Ltd., Canada Post, Dairy Farmers of Canada. Numerous other businesses and individuals also contributed on a smaller scale to make up a total of $3.35 million plus $3.8 million in gifts in kind.
The Canada Games Arena and Wapiti Nordic Ski Centre were constructed as venues and renovations were also made to the Johnny MacDonald Arena and Grande Prairie Regional College. A temporary Athlete’s village was also constructed.
Week One of the Games started with the February 19, 1995 Opening Ceremonies, including song and dance presentations, several addresses from dignitaries, lighting of the flame, and Colin James concert. Week One sports included Alpine Skiing (Jasper, Marmot Basin), Badminton (GPRC), Cross Country Skiing (Wapiti Nordic Ski Centre), Fencing (St. Joseph Catholic High School), Freestyle Skiing (Jasper’s Marmot Basin), Men’s Hockey (Canada Games Arena, Dave Barr Arena, Sexsmith Civic Centre, Wembley Rec-Plex), Judo (Grande Prairie Composite High School), Rhythmic Gymnastics (GPRC), Ringette (Beaverlodge Arena, Dave Barr Arena, Johnny MacDonald Arena), Shooting (Crystal Park School), Short Track Speed Skating (Johnny MacDonald Arena), Long Track Speed Skating (outside Leisure Centre Oval), and Wheelchair Basketball (Jasper Activity Centre).
Week Two sports included Artistic Gymnastics (GPRC), Biathlon (Wapiti Nordic Ski Centre), Boxing (Bowes Family Crystal Gardens), Curling (Grande Prairie Curling Rink), Figure Skating (Canada Games Arena), Women’s Hockey (Dave Barr Arena, Johnny MacDonald Arena), Squash (Grande Prairie Fitness Centre Squash Courts), Synchronized Swimming (Leisure Centre), Table Tennis (Grande Prairie Composite High School), and Weightlifting (GPRC Theatre). Week Two wrapped up with the Closing ceremonies at Canada Games Arena, including dignitaries, the Parade of Athletes, the Legend of the Northern Lights production, singer Michelle Wright, special awards, and the passing of the torch to Brandon, Manitoba as the next Host City.