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Hadfield arrives for Rotary 100th celebrations

The day finally arrived for Rotary Club of the Battlefords Centennial Celebration. Rotary was finally able to hold its Out of This World events with featured speaker Col. Chris Hadfield on Friday.

NORTH BATTLEFORD - After 18 months, the day finally arrived for the Rotary Club of the Battlefords Centennial Celebration.

Rotary was finally able to hold its Out of This World events with featured speaker Col. Chris Hadfield on Friday. It was a day long in coming, as the events had originally been scheduled for April 24, 2020.

The first event on the schedule was an afternoon high school presentation by Hadfield to students at North Battleford Comprehensive High School. The event was also live-streamed to students at John Paul II and Sakewew high schools.

During Hadfield's appearance at NBCHS, a video presentation was shown, which featured some highlights of Hadfield's experiences in NASA flying the Space Shuttle and as commander of the International Space Station. 

That was followed by Hadfield taking questions from the audience. He even autographed a sneaker for one of the students in attendance. 

Hadfield also brought out his guitar to perform a tune he created with the Barenaked Ladies, entitled Is Somebody Singing.

Due up next at the Dekker Centre for the Performing Arts was the Gala Celebration. Hadfield again headlined that event, which featured a more formal and extensive recognition of the 100 years of the Rotary Club of the Battlefords. 

The Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan Russ Mirasty was among those on hand, as were several local and regional political leaders including Mayor David Gillan of North Battleford, Mayor Ames Leslie of Battleford, and Battlefords MLA Jeremy Cockrill.

The evening event paid recognition to the club's past Integrity Award winners and past Presidents, who were invited to receive recognition on the Dekker Centre stage. 

Hadfield's presentation to the Gala audience was similar to the one to the students earlier, but he closed it with a different song: David Bowie's classic Space Oddity.

The afternoon and evening events had been postponed twice before due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions, with the latest Oct. 22 date set a year in advance. The gala event has been sold out since shortly after it was first announced in December 2019.

The estimated 350 people in attendance at the Dekker Centre had to adhere to strict COVID-19 protocols, including wearing masks as well as proof of vaccination.

Anticipation for Friday's high school and gala events had been building for days, particularly among Rotary members. In a post on Facebook a couple of days prior, the Rotary Club stated "an evening 3.5 years in the making will finally happen. I could not be more proud to be a Rotarian seeing the amazing work our team of selfless Rotarians and community volunteers have done over the past number of months and especially the past few weeks. The Dekker Centre has been transformed, Col. Hadfield is on his way and I am excited. I would be remiss if I didn’t extend our appreciation to our Community Partners, every single one has stuck with us."

In speaking to prior to his arrival, Hadfield pledged they would be "putting the 'battle' in Battlefords" and acknowledged it had been a "battle" to get the event off the ground. 

In speaking to reporters backstage Friday, Hadfield was delighted to see the Rotary Club's hard work come to fruition.

"Good things are worth waiting for. The folks have just been great to work with and patient and tenacious, and there's a terrific quality to tenacious patience. As a Canadian astronaut I served 21 years but I was only in space for six months, so 20 1/2 years of work and tenacious patience to try and get to the point where I might try and get a space flight. So I am not unfamiliar with the process," said Hadfield.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the night, event co-chair Warren Williams was delighted to finally get the Centennial Celebration in after the year and a half of delays.

"I feel fantastic," said Williams. "Our club, when it comes to things like this, we punch way above our weight. The Rotarians in our club -- when the doing needs doing, it gets done."

He also said the high school event with the youth in the afternoon had been integral to what they wanted to do, and noted Col. Hadfield was one of the most sought-after speakers in Canada.

"We wanted something that would inspire our youth, and this evening, inspire some other people," said Williams. "I think we've achieved that."