The torch comes to Truckee |

The torch comes to Truckee

Nik Dirga/Sierra SunDana Hunting of Truckee pauses with the Olympic torch at Donner Memorial State Park Sunday morning. The torch passed through Truckee Sunday on its way to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Several thousand people bundled themselves up and came out to see the Olympic torch as it made its way through Truckee Sunday on a chilly morning.

Olympic enthusiasts began their day at a celebration at Donner Memorial State Park, where they sipped on hot cocoa to the sounds of the Tahoe-Truckee High School band as they waited for the torch to arrive.

When the crowd caught its first glimpse of Dana Hunting, one of the 11 Truckee torchbearers, jogging into the park, shots were fired by members of the Truckee Railroad Regulators and the crowd erupted into cheers. People waved patriotic-colored balloons and American flags that had been handed out earlier by Chevrolet, one of the sponsors of the torch relay event.

The torch was placed on a stand atop the Donner Memorial statue for 15 minutes while a ceremony was held to honor local Olympians, past and present, and the torch convoy was given a chance to rest.

“I just want to thank all of the torchbearers, because it is their life experiences that truly signifies the Olympic spirit,” said local attorney Jim Porter, MC for the event.

After the brief ceremony, Dana returned to the statue where she lit the torch of the next torchbearer, her husband Jeff. Jeff and Dana, managers of the local Radio Shack, are one of the few husband and wife teams who will bear the torch on its way to the Great Salt Lake.

Jeff and Dana were nominated for the position by family and friends for their courage and inspiration to others. Two years ago, Jeff suffered a massive stroke and underwent subsequent emergency brain surgery. With the patience and care provided by Dana, Jeff has exceeded all recovery expectations.

After an emotional moment, Jeff set off, on schedule, for downtown via Donner Pass Road, which was lined with spectators. People climbed on rooftops and gathered on the balcony of the Truckee Hotel just to get a glimpse of this historic event.

“This was so exciting for us,” said Prosser residents Diane and John Rossi. “We made a special trip to see this. We got here early and had breakfast first, and we got a great parking spot. We even got to stand next to the ex-mayor.”

Truckee resident Tamera West said she thought it was great how the whole town had come out for the event.

“It’s great how this has brought everyone together,” said West, who also plans to attend this year’s Olympic games.

By 11:30, the streets were beginning to clear as the torch had crossed the railroad tracks downtown and was heading out to Highway 89 for its trek to Squaw Valley and around Lake Tahoe.

“Bringing the torch to Truckee, especially to the Donner Memorial, was really a highlight of the trip,” said Mark Walker, Olympic media relations manager for the torch relay. “The history of what happened up here at Donner Pass, all of the people that trekked through here, are really an inspiration to everyone. The people of Truckee truly deserved this.”

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