August 11, 2020

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Winnipeg Free Press



Airport welcome fit for champions

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This article was published 25/11/2019 (259 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Generations of Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans filled the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport waiting area on Monday to glimpse the elusive silver chalice, hoisted high on home soil for the first time in 29 years.

Justin Kiezik was one of hundreds of fans gathered to welcome the Grey Cup championship winning team back to the city and to celebrate the end of the championship drought.

"It was a long time coming," Kiezik said. "It was our time. We’re due."

Decked out in the emblematic blue and gold of the Winnipeg Football Club and a giant foam cowboy hat, Kiezik, 41, led the crowd through chants honouring Bombers’ head coach Mike O’Shea on his megaphone, ahead of the team’s chartered flight from Calgary, Alta. touching down at 3 p.m.

The 15-year season ticket holder said it was pure jubilation to watch the Bombers come out on top Sunday night, defeating the Hamilton Tiger Cats 33-12 in 107th Grey Cup, and after countless long haul trips to Regina for the Labour Day Classic and more walks of shame over the years than he cares to remember, Kiezik said seeing the team finally claim the championship was simply surreal.

"It’s a Hollywood story. You can’t write a better story than that," he said.

Parade starts at noon Tuesday

All of Winnipeg is invited to celebrate the Blue Bombers' first Grey Cup championship in 29 years at a victory parade on Tuesday afternoon.

All of Winnipeg is invited to celebrate the Blue Bombers' first Grey Cup championship in 29 years at a victory parade on Tuesday afternoon.

The championship parade, hosted by the Winnipeg Football Club and the City of Winnipeg, will depart from Hargrave Street and Portage Avenue at noon and head east on Portage, to wind up at The Forks. The parade is expected to conclude around 1:30 p.m. and the party will continue at The Forks following a fly-past by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Organizers say the event will include players, coaches and staff, Bombers president & CEO Wade Miller, Premier Brian Pallister, Mayor Brian Bowman, as well as the Bombers' cheer team and mascots Buzz and Boomer, the Blue Bombers Drum Band, and Dancing Gabe.

The throng of fans — an official with the Winnipeg Airports Authority estimated the crowd to be over 1,000 strong — carried signs of congratulations for the returning team, and dressed in their best Bombers’ attire, cheered each time they spotted a familiar jersey at the top of the escalator, only to hold their breath a moment more.

The Bombers wouldn’t keep fans in suspense much longer, however, finally streaming out of a special arrivals door between luggage carrousels with the Grey Cup in hand, to an uproar of cheers, horns, and plenty of cowbell. Fans didn't seem upset that the Cup came apart into two pieces as it was hoisted by players.

Linda Dunn and Donna Kreker were front row to witness history and high-fived the players as they autographed footballs, jerseys, and took plenty of selfies with fans.

Dunn started attending Bomber games with her father years ago, but was unable to mark the championship with her dad, who passed away before the club brought the Grey Cup back to the city.

"I just wished it was something I could have shared with my dad," she said, misty-eyed.

She now carries on the tradition with Kreker and for two years, the two friends and season ticket holders have cheered on the Bombers, holding out hope for the day they could finally claim their team as champions.

"We’re super excited and we’re just so happy for the whole city and the team, and we’re so proud," Dunn said.

"I just appreciate these guys so much and what they’ve gone through to become the Grey Cup champions," Kreker, a season ticket holder since 1990, added. "It’s a great team. It’s great for the fans."

Young Bombers fans, who've never seen the team bring the Grey Cup home, also made time out of their day to be a part of the milestone occasion.

Tyler Landry, 10, likely won't regret the absent mark on his attendance record as he witnessed champions Andrew Harris, Zach Collaros, and Adam Bighill, file by the crowd, and through a gauntlet that took the Bombers past the hundreds of supporters.

"I just want to congratulate the team. I really like the team and they performed very well," Tyler said, accompanied by his mom, Laura Landry.

"It's just amazing, it's really amazing," Laura said. "I've been telling them stories since when they were little about how exciting it is when the Bombers win, and to finally have this experience is amazing."

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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