Olympians honored with parade

"It gives you a kingly feeling to see how [the athletes] have matured and accomplished their goals, said Don Evans of Peru, who taught seventh grade Spanish to Mazdzer. "I remember when Chris told the class he was a luger and no one in the class knew what it was. That's certainly not the case today."

As the parade came to an end at the Harrietstown Town Hall, the cheering and excitement coalesced into a chant for the USA. Somebody in the crowd shouted "hip, hip hooray" and Demong lit an Olympic-style torch on the town hall steps.

The crowd then followed Demong and the other athletes into the town hall auditorium where the celebration continued.

"What a proud day not only to be an American, but to be from the North Country," shouted state Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward in front of a packed auditorium. "This group of athletes represents some of the best role models our children could ever have."

Several other state and local politicians also took the stage to praise the athletes and shower them with plaques, full sized American flags, and other symbolic items in a show of the community's appreciation for their achievements. But it was the speech given by Demong near the end of the event that simultaneously captured the mood of the crowd and the gaze of about 100 youngsters seated on the floor in the front of the auditorium.

"If there's one thing I truly hope comes out of this medal, I hope more kids get out and try these sports that we love to do here in the North Country," Demong said. "I hope these medals go into the collective consciousness of these little ones and that someday this will be thought of as the beginning of Nordic domination in the United States."

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