Hometown celebration for Virtue, Moir

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:17 AM ET

ILDERTON — If you’re ever lucky enough to win an Olympic gold medal in your lifetime, hope and pray you come from a small town.

Somewhere special. Somewhere like Ilderton.

Nothing — not a full rink in Vancouver or a packed house at the John Labatt Centre — compares to that kind of love and support.

Sure, two million people flooded downtown Chicago this past week to celebrate the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory. But that parade didn’t come close to being as tear-jerking or pride-inducing as the crowd who lined Ilderton’s Main Street to celebrate ice dance champs Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir Saturday afternoon.

“I come from the best community in the world,” Moir said to the family, friends and neighbours he has known his whole life at a sweaty Ilderton Arena, where his aunt Carol first put together the dream team.

“After the Olympics, I never thought I’d have that feeling I had singing the national anthem again,” Tessa, who the town adopted from London, said, “but thanks to you, I had that feeling when I walked in here today.”

Scott’s dad Joe Moir has driven down that same street a million times to his house that might as well be connected to the rink.

But never like this. Never with everyone he knows lining the route all red-clad and cheering as his wife Alma snapped pictures of all those familiar faces.

“It was very emotional for me,” he said. “To see all the people who supported Scott and Tessa along the way to fulfilling their dreams, it really hit me. I can’t thank everyone enough.”

Virtue, Moir and their families were shuttled down the parade route behind torchbearers and the Midlanders drum and bugle corps by Hume’s horse and carriage rides. Halfway through, a pizza from For Pizza’s Sake, where Scott’s older brother Charlie once worked, showed up.

It might’ve been the first pizza delivery to a horse-and-buggy in history.

There’s a reason people around these parts are like this.

“I think it’s the farm town, the small town,” said organizing volunteer Don McNaughton said, “and I truly believe that Ilderton leads the way. We’re like this for skating, hockey, our 4-H. I hope something like this shows how much the young people in our community mean to us. We’re all here for one reason — because we want to be here.”

And then he told a little story on why the arena was jammed to see the two skating stars.

“When Scotty and Tessa got back in London from the Olympics, they had just 17 or 18 hours here,” he said, “but the next morning, Scott took the gold medal to Oxbow (public school) and let everyone in the school touch it. He was probably tired and he could’ve slept in and went later, but he went down there first thing in the morning and stayed for two-and-a-half, three hours.

“That’s a man. That’s a leader right there.”

Businesses were covered in congratulatory signs. There were Canadian flags all over the place, even a cutout of a golden goose on a lawn to signify their dazzling signature lift. Hundreds of local kids with their own golden dreams wore their ‘Believe’ shirts.

To do their part to paint the town red, Joe Moir and son Charlie, one day, took all the blues and greens out of the family house’s Christmas lights and inserted all red.

“This is better than Chicago (and the Cup),” said Charlie, who Scott keeps teasing because the TV cameras caught him teary-eyed at the Olympics after they won. “It’s that small-town thing. I think there’s a few people I don’t know, but not many. There’s about four times as many people here as there is in Ilderton.”

“It’s personal,” Kate Virtue, Tessa’s mom, added. “That’s Ilderton. You see what the community centre was like during the Olympics — they kept showing it on TV. It takes a village (to raise a gold medal team).”

At one time, Kate was the bingo co-ordinator for the Ilderton Skating Club. Tessa’s dad Jim used to be the club president.

“If you have a Moir as a friend,” Jim Virtue said, “you have a true friend.”

And if you have Ilderton in your corner, success is forged on a steely foundation.

Nothing, Tessa Virtue always repeats, is small about the way Ilderton does things.

The champs are being honoured with huge signs at each of the four town entrances. There will be a fifth erected at the arena and each will contain one of the five Olympic rings.

Inside the rink where the magic first happened, there will be a giant poster of the team in mid-Goose to commemorate their sensational 2010 season.

No one who enters the town limits will ever forget where Virtue-Moir come from.

And, likewise, the Olympic heroes are very lucky to call this place home.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ryanpyette


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