Football fans have flocked to Edmonton’s downtown core to celebrate the beloved game ahead of this year’s Grey Cup. Even if their team isn’t playing in the big show, the festivities remain a great chance to celebrate team pride.
For one group of five friends, the Grey Cup means an opportunity to reunite, year after year.
Hugh Harrison and his wife, Donna, first met Cheryl Graham and her husband, Daniel, along with Betty Halliday at the 88th Grey Cup in Calgary back in 2000.
“We’re wearing drover coats made out of the flags of our respective teams. We wear the coats proudly and we walk around and take a lot of pictures,” said Donna, who travelled to Edmonton with her husband from north of Sudbury, Ont.
The colourful coats were made in 2007 by Halliday, who is from St. Catharines, Ont.
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“I got that idea from somebody in Alberta. I went home and sketched it all out, I’ve still got that original drawing that I sketched. We’ve had so much fun with these. I’ve made 55 coats,” said Halliday. “It takes eight hours of sewing and about two weeks in total.”
Donna said that despite her outfit choice and season tickets to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, she’s not sure if she would classify herself as being a “super fan.”
“We are a fan of the league and the sport. We are like-minded people; we all come together and cheer for a good game and a good outcome,” said Donna. “We came for the party and we stay for the game.”
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The five also decked themselves out in pins.
“We collect them,” said Donna. “I’ve been collecting since I was a kid. I have a bigger collection at home. I have a room dedicated to CFL, mostly Hamilton Tigercats.”
The Grahams from Winnipeg have been cheering for opposing teams for 37 years.
“We’ve managed to get through it. We have had a few arguments but not too many,” said Cheryl.
Daniel conceded that he will be cheering for the Calgary Stampeders, even though he’s a Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan.
“I don’t want to sleep on the couch,” he joked.
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For six-year-old Ethan-Cain Durocher and four-year-old James Ziober, this year will be their first Grey Cup Festival.
Durocher is an Edmonton Eskimos fan, while Ziober cheers for the Ottawa Redblacks.
Despite different team favourites, there is one point on which the two can agree.
“Calgary. We don’t like them,” said Durocher.
He describes not having the Edmonton Eskimos in the playoffs as “weird.”
Cousins Scott Weech and Morris Chirka are easily recognized at the Grey Cup Festival and Edmonton Eskimos games.
“We want to stand out, to be good super fans. Each year, we add items to our look. I’ve got a crown; I’m the king of Commonwealth now,” said Weech.
Weech said he likes that his colourful costume lets him stand out in a crowd.
“I’ve been going to games since I was a little kid. You don’t really get recognized, you’re just a kid,” said Weech. “Now, you’ve got everybody looking at you from all over Canada. Your friends tell you they’ve seen you on TV.”
Stephen Simmons and his fiancé, Jason Tusor, said they aren’t huge football fans but enjoy the atmosphere the Grey Cup Festival brings to Edmonton.
Simmons said he thinks Edmonton will come out as the big winner.
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“It’s the excitement, getting the city out and being cheerleaders for our city and showing people what it can offer. We’re a winter city and we need to embrace that when these festivals happen,” said Simmons.
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