Grey Cup Festival Highlights

Feature photo by Andre R. Gagne

The Grey Cup has touched down in O-town and with it comes a week of events for all. You don‘t need to know what shotgun formation, two-point conversion or all-purpose yardage are to be part of this party. The Grey Cup Festival has something for everyone whether you're a gridiron grunts, an armchair quarterback or a wee one looking to fill up on flapjacks.

We’ve already covered the concert series where some of the best Canadian musicians will taking the Arena at TD Place stage for nights devoted to classic rock, country and alternative, but there’s a lot more going on from now until the big game.

If you’re going to kickoff a festival named after the Grey Cup you best do it spotlighting what’s bringing everyone to the dance: the cup! The trophy, commissioned by Albert Grey in 1909 (actually intended for hockey, not football), arrives today and makes the rounds of the city with stops at Parliament Hill and the UOttawa Field before resting on display at Rideau Hall. Your best bet is checking it out there inside the tent room.

#BRINGITIN will see the arena at TD Place fill up with youths Wednesday morning for a three-hour event set to inspire and motivate. Speakers and performers include Grey Cup champion Henry Burris, 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist Erica Wiebe and CFL Commissioner Randy Ambroise. The day, open to all Ottawa area schools (Grades 4-12), will also feature the School of Rock and an inspiration wall.

Thursday sees the opening of two areas at Lansdowne that will provide free programming for the duration of the fest. The Canada 150 Family Fun Zone turns the skating and basketball courts as well as the Great Lawn into an outdoor haven for football fans of all ages. Here you can brush up on your skills with passing lessons, target practice and field goal kicks. Mascots will be roaming about and you may even bump into your favorite player. The nearby Aberdeen Square will host the Nissan Titan Street Festival, a showcase of Canadian culture from coast to coast. Take in more music and maybe snag an autograph or two.

Canadian football’s history will be on display at the concourse (Gates 2-3) byway of a museum featuring a number of artifacts. You can check out vintage jerseys, helmets and every a few Grey Cup rings.

Sure, all this Canadiana will break out a bunch of red and white but Capital Pride will waving the entire rainbow for their big bash in the Horticulture Building Thursday night. Produced and hosted by Queer Mafia and presented by You Can Play, the party is an inclusive event for anyone who wants to attend. While you’re groovin’, keep an eye out for players like Greg Ellingson and Antoine Pruneau.

Bust out the maple syrup because the Calgary Grey Cup Committee will be holding not one but two free pancake breakfasts on Friday / Saturday morning in Aberdeen Square. That’s a lot of flapjacks! Kids will want to meet Charlie Horse and the Calgary Stampede Queen while you toe-tap to the tunes of High Steppin’ Daddy.

Though only two can play in the game,  the CFL teams will be out in full force hosting gatherings for fans over the Festival. The Edmonton Eskimos will be shacked up in the Lowertown Brewery, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Eve Night Club, the Saskatchewan Roughriders will bring the party to the Horticulture Building, the BC Lions roar in The Great Canadian Cabin and the Calgary Stampeders will be in Industria, to name a few. Check out the full schedule for times.

The Atlantic comes to Ottawa with a Down East Kitchen Party in the Delta Hotel Friday. It’s a festival favorite. Listen to The MudMen and, if you’re bold enough, take part in a good ol’ Newfoundland Screech In!

Backflips, high-kicks, tumbles and a whole lotta’ pompoms, cheer and dance teams from all across the league will be strutting their stuff Saturday inside the arena. This free event is all ages so be sure to deck the whole family out in your team colours.

Grab your squad and experience an exciting women’s afternoon of training, games, relaxation and fun for Gridiron Gals at the Shaw Centre. The informative event will teach some of the basics for the sport with coaches and players and you can get rough and rugged with practice drills. Afterwards, be sure to pamper and preen in the nail and brow bar.

It’s all leading to the Grey Cup game itself Sunday but there’s one more party before the action starts on the field. Beers, bites and tunes at the Nissean Tailgate Party are sure to fire fans up before the Stampeders and Argos make history!