Glory and I popped into Churchill Square briefly today to check out Huddle Town, a set of exhibits and activities celebrating Edmonton's hosting of the Grey Cup this Sunday. Let's be clear here, I am not a huge sports fan, and Glory's not entirely sure which sport football even is, but we both like festivities, so off we went.
It's kind of trade fair-ish, with lots of booths giving away swag, media and product and financial services sponsors all out hawking their involvement. Plenty of food tents with chili and hot dogs and the like, but I didn't spot the ubiquitous Edmonton green onion cake; perhaps they were serving them in the Boston Pizza sports bar they had setup in a tent on the square. The line-up for the immense zip line was fairly manageable, but Glory was intimidated by both its height and its speed, and I'm just too big for it, so we had to pass it by, although we saw quite a few people enjoying it. She did have some fun running an inflatable obstacle course though.
There's a mini-field set up right in front of city hall where amateur teams are playing over the weekend, and CN has a locker room set up where you can try on a jersey and helmet from every team in the league. The majority of the square is covered by a huge tent that TSN is broadcasting from and that a number of sponsors have set up all kinds of event in, from autograph sessions with CFL players, to obstacle courses, exhibits from the CFL Hall of Fame and video games controlled with either your body or your cell phone, depending on whether you are at the Kinect or Telus booth.
The Edmonton Journal was giving away cardboard helmets and photos of attendees with a virtual Grey Cup, and Glory and I won a bandana and some lip balm playing a bean bag toss game.
The live stage was just getting set up, and acts like Bif Naked and Big Sugar will be performing there over the next couple of days. The volunteers were all smiling, friendly and helpful, and this is all helping to make Edmonton look very good indeed to all the sports fans coming here for the big game on Sunday. it's a bit of a sad counterpoint to what might have been had the federal government elected to support Edmonton's Expo 2017 bid.
Still and all, it's easy to enjoy the Grey Cup as a great bit of Canadiana, even if the majority of players are from the U.S.; a (mostly) outdoors game, with the championship coming to a northern city on the cusp of winter, and pitting East against West in a way the National Energy Policy never could. Memories of watching Grey Cup games at the Legion or at home with my folks in the glory days of Tom Wilkinson and Warren Moon put a bit of a nostalgic veneer on practically everything I saw, but what I appreciated most was the sheer variety of people I saw there: old and young, working class and posh, hipsters and squares. Huddle Town was a great place to spend a little time with Glory while Fenya and Audrey are at choir camp this weekend, and I am glad they will return in time for all of us to watch the game this Sunday, even if the Eskimos aren't in it.