Enjoying the fan experience

Venues offer fun events before big game


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It's one big party in the 'Peg.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/11/2015 (2559 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s one big party in the ‘Peg.

Locals, tourists and players were out enjoying the Grey Cup sights, sounds and activities Thursday.

At the MacDon Fan Experience and Family Zone, held at the University of Winnipeg’s Axworthy Health and RecPlex, people took part in the interactive football stations at the 189,000-square-foot facility.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Cindy Buss takes a selfie with Ottawa Redblacks QB Henry Burris at the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries FanFest Thursday at Club Regent Event Centre.

The fan experience at the RecPlex includes a host of football activities, such as kicking field goals and being timed in the 40-yard dash.

People can try for the most passes completed to a target, or test their abilities at the “quarterback rush” or “dive-and-catch” events.

The fan experience is open through Saturday from 10 a.m to 8 p.m. It’s free.

Director Ken Opaleke arrived with 28 kids from the West Broadway Youth Outreach, an inner-city program’s homework club.

“I love football,” said Nahome Bekele, 13. “I’m so happy I’m going to the game with West Broadway. I think Edmonton is going to win. They’re a really good team.”

Opaleke said the Asper Group and Rady JCC donated 28 tickets. Opaleke, who promotes good study habits and the important of education, said the 28 members of the homework club are all going to the game.

Ultimate CFL fans Debbie and Kevin McHady — married for 31 years — are longtime B.C. Lions fans from Campbell River, B.C., on Vancouver Island.

“It’s a real tough place to do season tickets from,” laughed Kevin, who said he’s been going to Lions games in Vancouver whenever he can since 1978. “We did have (season tickets) last year, and it cost us!”

The couple make the trek — nearly four hours one way — for every game. Sometimes they stay over, sometimes they head back. The journey includes a long drive and ferry trip.

“This is our fourth Grey Cup. It’s on our bucket list to go to every Grey Cup in every city that holds a Grey Cup, so we’re working our way through,” Debbie said.

The couple said they’ll be cheering for the Edmonton Eskimos over the Ottawa Redblacks.

“I don’t think Ottawa is strong enough to take on Edmonton’s defence,” Kevin said.

At the Power Punch Max sled, Sapper Connor Morrison from McGregor Armoury was having a mini-competition with several of his fellow Canadian Forces reservists. They took turns racing full speed at the tackling dummy and then dropping their shoulder to see, on the digital display, who exerted the most force.

“I got 748 and he (his competitor) got 501. No one was really sure what that measures exactly but it was fun,” said Morrison, who was helping the other reservists run a military-style obstacle course at another station.

— Ashley Prest


Betting on their teams


JOE BRYKSA /WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Patience Meeches, 10, from Norquay School, goes for a field goal at the University of Winnipeg's Axworthy Health and RecPlex Thursday afternoon.

CINDY Buss’s heart is with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers even though they’re not in the 2015 Grey Cup.

That was clear Thursday night at the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries FanFest at the Club Regent Event Centre.


Buss was decked out in a flowing coat made from Blue Bombers flags and a Rastafarian-type hat with blue-and-gold dreadlocks adorned with jewels on the ends.

“My coat is made out of five Bombers flags. A gal named Betty Holiday out of Hamilton, I met her at a Grey Cup, and she makes these,” said Buss, who lives in Golden Bay, about five kilometres east of Beausejour. “My hat was made by my aunt and my cousin. It was my 50th birthday last year and they gave it to me for a birthday present.”

As for Sunday’s Grey Cup game, Buss said she believes in Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris.

“I’m going to go for the underdogs (the Ottawa team) because they haven’t taken home a Grey Cup in over 30 years. I know how that drought feels. Sitting on 25 (since the Bombers have won a Grey Cup) I’m getting an idea of that and Henry Burris is a great ambassador to the game,” said Buss, who was watching the players arrive on the red carpet for the Shaw CFL Player awards.

A few steps away from the red carpet, Brian Desrochers from Thunder Bay got his picture taken with the Grey Cup on display with an RCMP officer who was serving as the historic hardware’s honorary guard.

“I’m here (in Winnipeg) for a training course. It’s great timing all this is happening so I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity to see the Grey Cup,” said Desrochers, who said he’s been a Bombers fan for about 10 years. “I never expected I’d get a chance to get a picture with the Grey Cup.”

He said he used to be an Edmonton Eskimos fan but switched allegiance to the Bombers.

“It does put me in a bit of spot (for whom to cheer for on Sunday). I’m just going to hope for a good game,” he said.

As the CFL star players walked down the red carpet Thursday, Allan Hordal from Yorkton, Sask., was set up right by the ropes with his girlfriend’s 13-year-old nephew, Matthew Prociuk. All the players knew Hordal so the two had photos taken with most players and hugs from several — including Burris and Toronto’s Chad Owens.

“It’s his (Hordal) 35th Grey Cup and this is my son’s first time experiencing this,” said Lynne Denischuk, Matthew’s mom and sister to LeeAnn Denischuk, Hordal’s girlfriend.

Lynne and Matthew live in Winnipeg but are Saskatchewan Roughriders fans thanks to Hordal and LeeAnn, who live in Yorkton.


— Ashley Prest


Festival offers family fun

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Blue Bomber DB Maurice Leggett runs through the Mark’s Football Obstacle Course during the media tour of the fan activities at the Grey Cup Festival HQ in the RBC Convention Centre.

TAKE a run at a tackling sled, have your photo taken with cheerleaders and, if you’re lucky, Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Maurice Leggett may show you some of his moves.

Leggett and Blue Bombers fullback Tim Cronk were part of a tour of the Grey Cup Festival headquarters that opened Thursday in the RBC Convention Centre, with Leggett showing off some nimble cheerleader splits and pom-pom shaking skills.

The Grey Cup HQ offers a variety of free fan experiences for families, including a Nissan-sponsored strongman competition: a carnival-like apparatus where strength is gauged by how hard you swing a sledgehammer.

At a Pepsi/Ruffles-sponsored display, you can don football equipment and jersey and run through a simulated tunnel and onto a patch of artificial grass to get the feeling of entering a pro stadium like a real player.

Blue Bombers players will be on hand for photographs and autographs, take in a travelling exhibit from the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (including a football from the Bombers’ first Grey Cup win in 1935, autographed by the players), and browse a pin exchange run by Ron and Gina Boily. (Ron is the president of the Winnipeg Pin Collectors Club.)

The HQ is open through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.


Keep it cordial, police are watching

WINNIPEG police are preparing to ramp up patrols around Grey Cup events this weekend, planning more impaired-driving checkstops and increased police presence throughout the festival.

People should expect to see officers with the downtown foot patrol, community support unit, crowd-control team and cadets at Grey Cup events, Const. Jason Michalyshen said Thursday.

“We want to encourage members of the public to enjoy the festivities. We’re going to be there right beside them having a good time, but we also want to encourage safety. Let’s be mindful while we are enjoying a good time, that we’re respectful of people around us. A lot of that comes down to fan etiquette,” he said.

The police presence at Sunday’s game will be similar to regular Blue Bombers games, Michalyshen said, but more officers will be available for crowd control and to combat drinking and driving.

“We will set up where drinking is taking place,” he said. “So we encourage all members of the public: have a plan.

“This is about having fun, this is about having a good week, celebrating this incredible event here in Winnipeg; it doesn’t come often. Unfortunately, the Bombers aren’t in it on Sunday, but that’s OK, there’s always next year.”

— Katie May


Updated on Friday, November 27, 2015 7:19 AM CST: Replaces photo, fixes cutlines

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