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Party on: Fans game to celebrate Grey Cup in style on the road and at home

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With her beloved B.C. Lions out of the running for Sunday's Grey Cup, Jenny Brittain won't have a chance to roar her support for the hometown team — but she still plans to party come game day.

Brittain and her husband of 49 years, Ray, are co-founders of the Lion Backers Fan Club and are fervent boosters of the team. The great-grandmother joined others during the season to bring a variety of edible treats to the players, from fresh fruit and cakes to cookies and baked loaves.

In the past, Brittain said they have joined a select few for a Grey Cup potluck comprising comfort food favourites like chili and potato salad.

While still unsure of whether she'll be watching from home or elsewhere on Sunday, she plans to have crackers, cream cheese and pepper jelly at the ready to root for the Toronto Argonauts to take the title on home turf against the Calgary Stampeders.

"With the Grey Cup being there, I think they deserve to win," she said in an interview from her home in New Westminster, B.C.

The 76-year-old was there to witness the Lions hoist the league championship trophy at home last year, and said the celebrations and atmosphere surrounding the Grey Cup are reminiscent of another high-profile sporting event staged in the city.

"It's like when we had the Olympics here, it's the same feeling," Brittain said.

"You've got something big going and you're involved in it. Your whole province should be involved in this. And it just gives you — I don't know. It makes you want to cheer."

Fellow Lions fan Keith Whittier reserved seats for Sunday's Grey Cup last year, and will head from Ottawa to Toronto to take part in various festivities leading up to the championship final. Upon his arrival in Hogtown, Whittier said he plans to pick up the program outlining the various fetes being held in the city by league teams and their supporters.

From the Spirit of Edmonton breakfast to the Touchdown Manitoba social, the Argos' Double Blue Bash to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' TigerTown Wrecker's Ball, the calendar will be stacked with team parties and galas leading up to the Grey Cup, along with a roster of exhibitions and other events.

"We've gotten to the point now where we have friends who come from all over from all the different cities, and we all always seem to meet up in whatever city the Grey Cup is being hosted and we pretty much go from party to party," said Whittier, who will be attending his fifth league championship final.

"One of the things I really like about the CFL and especially the fanbase is everyone is loyal to their own team; but everyone, for the most part, plays really well in the sandbox."

Whittier said one of the great aspects of team socials is the accessibility to players and coaching staff who attend, adding that he bumps into Lions general manager and former head coach Wally Buono each year at a party.

"Here's a guy who's broken all these coaching records and is a surefire Hall of Famer who remembers me by face and says, `Hey, how are things?' and is very sociable," Whittier said of Buono. "That's one of the things I like about the league. Because there's not all these multi-million-dollar contracts, you also don't have a lot of ego, so there's a lot of approachability.

"You see these guys playing out on the field and they're phenomenal at what they do, and then you walk up to them and it's just the simplest conversation you could ever have," he added.

"That coupled with seeing the friends that I've acquired over the years, seeing them year after year at those parties... those are the memories. To me, those are the things that are the most special."

The Montreal Alouettes may have missed a shot at a Grey Cup berth, but team supporter Claude Martel is still hoping to bring his customary pre-game celebration to Toronto — not to mention a cooler filled with sausages, patties and fine cuts of meat.

The computer programmer and father of two is hoping to try to find a spot near the Rogers Centre on Sunday to organize a tailgate, not unlike the gatherings he helped stage prior to Alouette home games. This year, the 50-year-old also travelled to Hamilton and Winnipeg to support the team.

Sunday will mark the fourth time Martel will attend the league final, and he has his sights set on heading to Regina for next year's championship contest.

Regardless of which team they support, Martel said there's a sense of camaraderie among all the league's fans during the Grey Cup, pointing as an example to the contingent of Calgary fans who travel and organize free breakfasts.

"It's a big brotherhood. There's no rivalry here," he said.

"It's all CFL fans."

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