Niagara-on-the-Lake’s little airport welcomed some very large aircraft last Friday.
The first of three Boeing 737 jets carrying 144 athletes from Newfoundland and Labrador landed at Niagara District Airport just after noon.
That made them the first team to arrive in Niagara for the 2022 Canada Summer Games.
About 15 minutes later, another planet, carrying 105 of the 446 athletes from New Brunswick landed on the tarmac. The rest of the athletes from New Brunswick arrived later that evening.
“They’re not landing an hour and a half away and dealing with the traffic,” said Daniel Pilon, chief executive of Niagara District Airport.
“We think we’re an underutilized asset in Niagara, so this gives us an opportunity also to show kind of what we can do.”
Pilon said it will be nice for the competitors to be in the athletes village and in their own space within a half-hour of landing.
If they landed at one of the larger airports in Toronto or Hamilton, they’d have to make the long, often slow trek to Niagara.
He said he’s excited to be able to show people how different the experience can be for people in Niagara.
As the first plane touched down, crowds waited for the competitors to descend from the aircraft. Once they did, the airport erupted with cheers.
Jenna Connolly, one of the softball coaches for team Newfoundland and Labrador, said she’s really excited to be in Niagara.
She’s visited Niagara before for pleasure, but never to compete and said most of her team has never been to the region.
Her hopes for the team? “To just play as hard as you can.”
Team New Brunswick softball player Sydney Arseneault said she is “really excited to play and just (to) see how we play compared to all the other teams.”
While this is her first time in Niagara, it is not her first time competing at the Canada Games.
As the athletes walked to their buses, four members of the Strong Water Singers Indigenous group sang to the beat their drums.
One of the singers, Cherie Bernard, said it’s always a pleasure and an honour when they’re asked to participate in community events.
The Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games kicked off on Saturday, Aug. 6, and run until the 21st.