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Estevan outvotes Swan River for Kraft berth

Welcome to the club, Estevan. Television sets across the country will be dialed into the Energy City on Aug. 25 as the community hosts a live broadcast of TSN's SportsCentre. The show will be hosted on the 1000 block of 4th St.
Members of the Chargers and Steelers put on a mock game Monday night so that TSN producers could get footage for its Aug. 25 broadcast.

Welcome to the club, Estevan.

Television sets across the country will be dialed into the Energy City on Aug. 25 as the community hosts a live broadcast of TSN's SportsCentre.

The show will be hosted on the 1000 block of 4th St., in front of the courthouse, with festivities running all afternoon including the broadcast at 4 p.m.

It's part of the reward Estevan will receive after winning a berth on the Kraft Celebration Tour, an announcement that was made last Wednesday after the city defeated Swan River, Man., in a 24-hour period of online voting.

The community's football programs will also receive $25,000 from Kraft Canada to help repair flooding damage and finish the ECS Elecs' locker room. It has yet to be decided exactly how the funds will be split.

Estevan Minor Football's Wanda Harron, who submitted the Estevan entry, described the waiting period on Wednesday as "the longest six hours" of her life.

"In all seriousness, in the 10 minutes before they announced it I was more nervous than I was at my own wedding. Honestly, I was. My stomach was doing flip-flops," she said.

EMF president Steve McLellan, who was vacationing in Atlantic Canada, said he jumped out of his chair when TSN anchor Rod Smith made the announcement; Elecs head coach Marco Ricci was "overjoyed."

"The first words out of my mouth were, 'Thank God.' And then the phone started to ring," Harron recounted.

"I told some people I would have been disappointed if we would have lost, but I think I would have been more shocked if we would have lost, just based on all the work we all did."

Fellow football volunteer and parent Val Paulson said she couldn't be sure Estevan would win because it was up against a small prairie town, and they tend to be long on community spirit.

"I slept for about two hours. I voted and I voted and I voted. From two o'clock to four o'clock I was erect, just pacing and trying to do work," she said. "I was vibrating and nervous and anxious all at the same time."

The Estevan bid began as a football endeavour, but it quickly became much more after the region was pounded by flood waters. Organizers hope the TSN broadcast and accompanying party will bring together affected families from across the southeast.

That includes a tentative food drive at the broadcast for the Salvation Army, which was integral in flood relief efforts.

"This turned into more of a pride thing for Estevan. People from across Canada were saying, 'We've seen the footage and the troubles you guys have gone through, you guys deserve this and you need it,'" said Ricci.

"The one thing we said (as a committee) is we need to bring everybody together. It doesn't have to be just about football, it's about celebrating this city. When you have TSN covering you for a full day, I don't know if you could ever put a dollar figure that would match what that means."

That said, McLellan believes the cause of the fledgling local football program was worthy of attention on its own merits.

"I'd like to think we'd still win without the flooding. A lot of the reason for this is the success we've had the last few years.

"I'm almost a little more excited for that, being on TSN and having Estevan there and being able to be recognized for the hard work we've done to this point without the flooding."

The prize money will help EMF keep that going. The main field needs to be re-turfed and damage in the concession building repaired.

Ricci said the Elecs' locker room is on the agenda to be finished this year, but the Woodlawn facilities are the greater priority right now.

Paulson said she's proud of her fellow organizers, local businesses and everyone else who helped bring the Celebration Tour to Estevan.

"You realize how blessed we are. This community is amazing. With the football organization, you become a team on and off the field.

"It's going to be a heck of a party and a good time. I can't wait."

The other stops on this year's tour are Armstrong, B.C.; Wallaceburg, Ont.; Devon, Alta.; Pembroke, Ont.; Kyle, Sask.; La Durantaye, Que.; Sackville, N.B.; MacGregor, Man.; and Port Hood, N.S.