Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Calgary faithful spreading the fever

Visiting fans plan to party very hard

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TORONTO -- As Toronto gears up to host Sunday's historic Grey Cup, fans of the Calgary Stampeders are bringing some western flair to the city.

"We're just going to kick up our heels and party it up now," said Brad Greenslade, a member of the Calgary Grey Cup Committee. "We're here to paint this town Calgary!"

Donning Stampeders red and a white cowboy hat, Greenslade says he and the other 60 committee members have been spreading cowboy spirit since they began arriving in the city over the past few days.

And so far, Toronto has embraced it.

On Thursday, the group's chairman trotted a horse named Marty through the front doors of the upscale Fairmont Royal York Hotel as a crowd of cheering fans hooted and chanted "Go Stamps go!"

The tradition of Stamps fans riding a horse into the hotel lobby began in 1948 when Calgary won the CFL championship in Toronto.

Greenslade says the horse stunt brings Calgary luck and he's happy they were able to recreate it for the 100th Grey Cup. The Stampeders will face the hometown Argonauts in the big game Sunday at Rogers Centre.

Earlier in the day, the 15-year-old dark brown stallion was turned away due to safety concerns.

The hotel rolled out its official red carpet, usually reserved for royalty and heads of states, and even prepared a bucket of apples and carrots for his arrival. But the Royal York stopped short of letting the animal through its front doors.

Hours later, after the Calgary fans took Marty to various spots around the city -- including TV stations and an Irish pub for some apples and beer -- the Royal York changed its mind about their four-legged guest.

Greenslade said many stopped to take photos and pet Marty as he toured the city.

"There are people as we're walking around, they've probably never seen a horse, let alone one walking the street of a major urban city," he said.

When Marty returned to the Royal York, he was immediately allowed inside where he posed for photos under a crystal chandelier on the hotel's marbled floor.

Committee chair Fletcher Armstrong says this is just another example of Toronto welcoming Calgary's brand of western hospitality.

Calgary Stampeders offensive lineman Obby Khan said the team was prepared if the hotel hadn't changed its mind.

"We were going to go over there and fight some people," said Khan. "We had our cowboy gear on, I had my lasso and pistol ready to go, and we had to go to practice unfortunately. But that's great news. Party at the Royal York -- let's go."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2012 C4

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