Grey Cup weekend is about more than a football game.
For the Calgary Stampeders cheerleaders, better known as the Outriders, it’s also a chance to go up against other squads from across the CFL in the annual Cheer Extravaganza.
In another special performance, 65 former Outriders will also take the stage at this year’s Grey Cup weekend in Calgary.
“These girls are going to show that no matter how old you are, you’ve still got it. We’re still strong, we’re still close girls and I think we’re going to do the city proud.”
The outfits, routines and roster may have changed, but the alumni still feel most at home practising under McMahon Stadium’s bright lights.
More than 45 former cheerleaders performed at the Stampeders’ 2019 Pink Power game.
“Every girl who is out there is working her butt off for that moment of performance,” Outriders alum Ceilynn Howse said. “You have to give it your all. You have to dance for the person in the very top row, every single game.”
Current and former members agree Calgary is a unique place to pick up the pompoms.
Since its inception, the Outriders squad has emphasized country music and dance-heavy — rather than stunting — routines.
Thomasson still remembers her audition for the squad back in the mid-1980s.
“It was in an old high school gym and we had to audition to “Fame,” She recalled. “We had to do a football quiz to prove we knew how the game was played and we had to do three rounds of interviews.
“It was several days of eliminations and then you waited for the phone call on your landline to find out you made the team.”
Thomasson’s daughter Jessica would also go on to join the Outriders years later.
Now they’re performing together.
“It’s surreal,” Thomasson laughed. “We did perform together at a previous alumni event when she was a current member. This year she’s an alumnus with me! She’s my dance mom now. She’s telling me, ‘Mom! You’re going the wrong way! Mom! It’s a kick turn!'”
They hope the recently-formed Canadian Football Cheerleaders Alumni Organization will help them keep volunteering together — and stay in touch.
“I think it’s really important people see that we haven’t just disappeared,” Howse added. “These girls have dedicated hours and hours of volunteer time and time on the field.
“We didn’t just end our years on the team and become nothing. These girls have gone on to do really incredible things.”
And that’s really something to cheer about.