Torch relay kicks off the Winter Games

ELIZABETHTOWN - It was time to celebrate a victory before any games were contested.

Essex County Board of Supervisors chairman Randy Douglas and Elizabethtown town supervisor Noel Merrihew were on hand at the beginning of the Empire State Winter Games first-ever torch run, which started at the steps of the county offices Feb. 24.

"We declare that we are ready for these games," Douglas said. The town of Jay, where Douglas serves as supervisors, was one of several municipalities who helped to sponsor the games after the state cut funding for the event.

"During tough times, there may be things that knock us down, but we have proven that they are not going to knock us out," Douglas said. "Within hours of finding out that the games would not receive funding, numerous municipalities and agencies pulled together a plan to continue the 31-year tradition that was threatened by the cuts."

Douglas also relayed what he thought a former county chair and Olympian would feel about the events that led to the rescuing of ESG.

"Jack Shea would be very proud of what everyone has done to keep this going," Douglas said.

Douglas and Merrihew were also joined by several students from Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School, who opened the torch run.

"It gives me great pride to see such good participation from the youth in our community," Merrihew said. "This should give our region pride that we have shown a commitment to the youth and to athletics."

"This whole event is about youth and sports," said Kim Rielly, communications director at Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism. "This is a great example of our region's best."

Among the runners were Zach Denton, who wore the Empire State Games jacket that his father wore in 1987.

"He was a bobsledder," Denton said. "I thought that this would be a cool event to take part in and run in the first torch relay."

"It was good to be the first one to hold the torch," ELCS student Austin Morris said, who received the torch from Douglas to open the run. "It was a good experience."

The torch run went through several towns throughout the region before making it's way to the opening ceremonies in Lake Placid.

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