Cold weather does not deter Bombers’ fans from tailgating outside IG Field

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Almost eight hours before the CFL’s Western Final kicked off Sunday, Bain Giesbrecht and other diehard Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans got the pre-game festivities off to a very early start.

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Almost eight hours before the CFL’s Western Final kicked off Sunday, Bain Giesbrecht and other diehard Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans got the pre-game festivities off to a very early start.

Giesbrecht and a group of about a dozen family and friends started setting up their tailgate party around 8 a.m. while the temperature was just shy of -10 C.

They cleared snow from their corner of a parking lot near IG Field and cooked a breakfast of bacon and eggs while discussing the Bombers’ odds of defeating the visiting B.C. Lions and advancing to a third consecutive Grey Cup.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans tailgating outside IG Field Sunday before the game against the B.C. Lions.

“It’s a good tailgate community that’s grown here,” said jersey-clad Giesbrecht as he surveyed the lot, which by noon had started to fill up. “We love the fact we’re able to do this. It just makes being a fan so much better.”

Bundled-up members of his group huddled near a fire burning in a steel pit while clutching bottles of beer or cans of pre-mixed Caesars in their gloved hands.

Their winter boots contained heat packs to keep their feet warm.

Snacks and drinks were laid out on a foldable table while Bombers flags hanging from pickup trucks barely moved, given there was only a slight wind.

A lunch comprising kebabs and other meat was being prepared about three hours before game time.

By then, the temperature had climbed to -7 C.

“This weather is outstanding for a playoff game in mid-November,” Giesbrecht, a Bombers season ticket holder for 20 years, said while Blue Öyster Cult’s classic (Don’t Fear) The Reaper blared from a speaker nearby. “I think it’s going to put (the Bombers) in a pretty good position.”

The weather could have been a lot worse, given the snow storm that walloped Winnipeg on Thursday and into Friday morning.

As more fans arrived to tailgate in the parking lot on the University of Manitoba’s campus, light snow began to fall and the smell of smoke — from fire pits and grills — filled the air.

Groups mingled while some tossed footballs back and forth.

Mike Sosnowsky and a few others gathered around a pickup truck’s tailgate while tucking into pulled pork sandwiches.

Sosnowsky got up at 4 a.m. to deal with the cut of pork he had been smoking since Saturday morning. He began tailgating about seven hours later.

“It’s really just to get with your friends and family, and enjoy the game and make an event out of it,” he said. “The cold weather really doesn’t bother me, like a true Winnipegger.”

The group included Desiree Hawcroft, who was impressed by fans’ spirit as she enjoyed her first tailgating experience.

“It’s nice to see all different ages,” she said.

Hawcroft bought a new pair of mitts to prepare for an event in which she would spend several hours outside.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Bombers fans (from left) Carly Sosnowsky, Noah Fidler, Desiree Hawcroft, Riley Derlago, Mike Sosnowsky and Leah Sosnowsky tailgating outside IG Field Sunday before the game against the B.C. Lions.

“The weather is pretty good. I’m dressed very warm, and I’m thankful for that,” she said.

As they made the most of the occasion, fans were in good spirits and very confident about the home team’s chances before the game started at 3:30 p.m.

Winners of the last two Grey Cups, the Bombers led the CFL with a 15-3 record this season, giving them home field advantage and making them the favourite heading into the division final.

Fans such as Ryan Nielson hoped the weather at open-air IG Field would give the club the edge over the Lions (12-6), whose homes games are played inside the domed B.C. Place.

“It’s great compared to last year,” said Nielson, who was part of the group with Giesbrecht. “You can’t beat this kind of weather in November.”

The wind chill was about -20 on Dec. 5, 2021, when the Bombers defeated the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders 21-17 in the Western Final.

On Sunday, the Bombers hosted a sponsored tailgate party outside one of IG Field’s gates. It opened four hours before the 3:30 p.m. kickoff to fans with tickets to the game.

The lure was a 22-by-39-foot screen, billed as the largest mobile screen in North America, which showed the Eastern Final before the Bombers and Lions clashed in south Winnipeg.

In the earlier divisional final, the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Montreal Alouettes 34-27 to clinch a spot in the 109th Grey Cup.

The CFL championship is being held at Mosaic Stadium in Regina next Sunday.

The venue is home to the Bombers’ main rival — the Roughriders — who failed to make this season’s playoffs with a record of 6-12.

chris.kitching@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @chriskitching

Chris Kitching
Reporter

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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