November 22, 2018 1:37 pm

Beyond Football: Cheerleading, Esports getting piece of the spotlight at 2018 Grey Cup Festival

The Edmonton Eskimos cheer team is at the K-Days Parade in downtown Edmonton July 17, 2015.

Emily Mertz, Global News

The focus of the 106th Grey Cup is on the football field, but there are other skills being showcased throughout the 2018 Grey Cup Festival.

Cheer Extravaganza 

CFL cheer teams from across the country will gather at the Cheer Extravaganza to put on an impressive display of athleticism.

Longtime Edmonton Eskimos cheer team coach, Diane Greenough, is finishing off her many seasons with the team this year.

LISTEN BELOW: Cheerleaders from across the country gather at 2018 Grey Cup

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In 1996, the first year she was with the Eskimos, the team traveled to the Grey Cup in Hamilton.

“There was nothing going on [apart from the halftime show]. I went home and said to the team, I want to see all of the CFL cheerleaders at this event. I want to put together a Cheer Extravaganza. I would love to have everyone in the parade, I want them at the Spirit of Edmonton breakfast.”

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In 1997, the CFL hosted the first ever Cheer Extravaganza.

She said it’s exciting to see how cheerleading has evolved over the years.

“Cheerleading has grown and changed over the years and become much more acrobatic,” Greenough said. “There are young ladies being vaulted 20 feet in the air. Most of the teams have men on the team as well.”

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Greenough said the football players are equally supportive of the cheerleaders.

“We have been treated very well by the players. At the end of the game, they always come through the tunnel and thank us for our support during the game,” said Greenough. “That’s something they don’t need to do. They are professional athletes. The show is about the football team. To know the players are appreciative is great.”

After 23 years with the team, Greenough said she looks forward to her last Grey Cup weekend.

WATCH: Longtime Edmonton Eskimos cheer team coach set to retire

“It is with great joy that I will coach this entire weekend. I will enjoy every last moment of working for the Edmonton Eskimos and these great athletes.”

The event begins Nov. 24 at 3 p.m. at the Shaw Conference Centre. Tickets are $20.

ESports Tournament

The inaugural Grey Cup Festival Esports Tournament is the first Esports tournament to coincide with a professional sports tournament in Canada.

Owner of High Score Esports, Steven Noel, said the event consists of eight teams made of 40 competitors.

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“All the teams are made up of different CFL team colours. It gives the Grey Cup Festival and CFL a chance to see what it would be like to run a league within the CFL, now that Esports is coming in to the professional sports level.”

The League of Legends tournament will have a seating and viewing area.

“You can expect to see a great environment for spectating, which is something that hasn’t been done to this extent in Edmonton,” Noel said.

LISTEN BELOW: Esports comes to the 2018 Grey Cup

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The inclusion of the gaming tournament is bringing the digital world to the Grey Cup Festival.

“[Organizers] just want to see where this industry is going,” said Noel. “It gives the Grey Cup Festival and the CFL the chance to see what it would be like to run an Esports league within the CFL.”

The tournament runs Thursday to Saturday.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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