Party wise, Grey Cup weekend usually looks pretty familiar from one year to the next, with a couple of variations. I’ve managed to sample them all over the course of my previous twelve pilgrimages. Some are like your drinking buddy, they never let you down. Others are like your day job, only tolerable when drunk.
How’s a casual cupper to know?
1. Spirit of Edmonton (5/5) FREE?
From 4pm (Th) / 2pm (F, S) until 2am at The Lowertown Brewery and Sens House
Hands down the best party of the weekend! It’s by far the most fan diverse and a must visit every year. It’s a great fall back anytime other parties go bust. This year’s location is amazing (at a brewery!) and it seems they are stepping up their game with overflow tents and two stages. Entrance is easy on Thursday and Friday nights but there may be a significant line Saturday (I’m not sure anyone got in after 10:30pm last year).
2. Touchdown Manitoba (5/5 for Bomber fans 4/5 for everyone else) $25
From noon until 5pm (F) at the Shaw Centre Room 205/207
It’s runs once, for five hours, so an easy miss if you don’t plan for it. TD MB has always been a well run event. Obviously there’ll be a lot of blue jerseys but those sporting others are always treated well. Last year Coach O’Shea spent the entire time speaking with fans while players signed autographs. The Grey Cup made an appearance too! Everyone who wanted got their picture taken with it.
There’s a excellent silent auction plus a table of cold cuts, pickles and salads, so don’t worry about lunch. However, as per Manitoba tradition, the place empties out as soon as the prizes are drawn so don’t show up too late!
This has sold out years previous so do buy tickets in advance.
3. Atlantic Schooners DownEast Kitchen Party (3/5) $15
From 3pm (F) / noon (S) until 2am at the Delta hotel – City Center Ballroom
This was amazing at 101, a slight disappointment at 102, great fun again at 103 but a total disaster at 104 (due to the venue). I’m a little concerned this year as well since they’re not directly beside any of the other parties but the MC did swear, in front of the whole (mostly empty) room that beer prices would be lower in Ottawa.
It’s the most diverse party of the weekend. Like the others, Saturday will be the busiest but I expect Friday to be better this year than last. Kiss the cod and get screeched in (seriously)! Also, lobster tasty rolls!
4. Riderville (5/5 for Rider fans, 3/5 for everyone else) $10
From noon until 2am (F, S) at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park
Hahaha, horticulture building, really? Is that on purpose? That writes itself…
Riderville is never empty but it’s also the least diverse of all the team parties. A great time if you’re green, not so much if you’re blue. To be honest I haven’t gone the past few years since they’re not very hospitable to my kind. Unless you drive a tractor to work, you should be checking out Spirit of Edmonton or the DownEast Kitchen Party first.
5. Rnation Party – Ottawa (3/5) $10/person/day or $30 pass
From 4pm (Th) / noon (F, S) until 2am at Aberdeen Pavilion
Ottawa has rediscovered it’s love for the CFL and as the host city I expect this party to be much better than years past. It’s close to Grey Cup HQ and is surely worth a drink or two. A verified Grey Cup rule of thumb: the host city puts extra effort into their shaker.
6. The Shipyard (Argos) (3/5) FREE?
From 7pm until 1am (S) at Barley Mow on Bank Street (Lansdowne)
Last year the Shipyard was small but rockin’. Good band, excellent variety of jerseys and there might have even been a couple of games to play (or not, I was very drunk). The overall, albeit hazy, perception I’m left with is very positive!
However, on the road, the Argos shaker can be as pathetic as their home game attendance. This is at a pub and could be more of a pep rally than a party. A must for Argos fans, especially this year, but maybe not for anyone else. There are better parties on at the same time. That said, it’s location makes it low fairly risk since it’s not far from the other events at Lansdowne.
7. Lion’s Den (3/5) FREE
From 4pm until midnight (F, S) at The Great Canadian Cabin – ByWard Market
I have no idea why, but I meet more players/alumni here than anywhere else. That reason alone makes this worth checking out if you haven’t before. It’s literally right beside Spirit of Edmonton and has no cover so there’s no risk in case this turns bust.
8. TigerTown (3/5) FREE?
Various – Pub Crawl, see here
Usually Tiger Town is just a bar or restaurant swearing fealty to the Armpit of Ontario. This time they are calling it a pub crawl, but it’s not really, just a different venue every night (two on Saturday). I sometimes eat a meal at Tiger Town because the Cats are welcoming when we’re not at Tim Horton’s Field together. I may again this weekend.
9. Bomber House (2/5) FREE?
From 6pm until 2am (T, F, S) Eve Nightclub – ByWard Market
I expect this will literally be a night club with a couple of Bomber flags draped about. As far as I can tell they don’t offer food. This is all I could find about it on the interwebs:
Come pary at the Bomber House Fan Fest at this year’s Grey Cup Festival!
Live bands, DJs, beer gardens, performances from the Blue Bombers Cheer Team, alumni appearances, and the loudest fans in the CFL!
This is near the others in the market so again, low risk, but walk away if they try to charge you cover.
Don’t confuse this with Touchdown Manitoba (above), it’s not the same shindig!
10. Stamps House (2/5) $10
From noon until 12am (F, S) Industria – Lansdowne
$10 cover to get into a pizzeria? Sorry, but I can only recommend this to Stamps fans. Everyone else should skip ahead to the ByWard Market where parties are free. Every time I’ve given Stamps House another chance it’s felt like the same bar, with the same Stamps fans, playing the same country music with this horrid thing called “two stepping”.
11. Montreal (1/5) $20
From 7pm until 10pm (S) at FlyBar – ByWard Market
After boycotting 103 in Winnipeg and hosting last year’s dry party in a Church parking lot (I’m not kidding), they’ll get off the couch and put in a token effort for 105. $20 for a three hour party? Avoid this like Coors Light.
Other Grey Cup Parties
B.A. Johnston – Pre Grey Cup Craptactular (unrated) $5 before 10pm/ $10 after
From 9:00pm until close (S) at House of TARG (near Lansdowne)
I’ve never experienced this myself but I had more than person insist it be included in this year’s guide. I looked him up:
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another performer that can match the mad, filthy, hammered, hilarious, miserable intensity of a BA Johnston show. Armed with a beat-up acoustic, a Casio keyboard from the 80s, and semi-functional Discman loaded with backing tracks, BA tells stories and sings songs about his sad, mundane life, all while climbing over the audience, shooting snot rockets, and getting progressively drunker and nakeder.
Grey Cup Concert Series (3/5) $45/night
From 6:00pm until 11pm (Th/F/S) at The Arena at TD Place
My experience with these has been that they are WAY overpriced and sometimes completely dead. They are only worth considering if you like the bands. At 100 they were dead, though I still had amazing time shooting pool with some former Bombers in the VIP section after they invited me inside (evidently they were bored too).
Tailgate Party (3/5) FREE?
From noon until End of Game (Game Day) at the Great Lawn (Lansdowne)
They are billing this as the largest tailgate in the CFL’s history. Time will tell. Really though, you don’t have many options before the game. Pray to the football gods for short beer lines! I’ll see you there!
Shaw CFL Player Awards (2/5) $300
From 6pm until 2am (Th) at the Shaw Center
Hahaha, don’t. You can get cover and drinks at all the other parties all weekend for three bills. The players and TV personalities all bug out as soon as they can anyhow. Also, it’s usually a black tie affair, meaning no colourful fans. What’s the point then?
Anything with VIP in it (unranked)
Don’t pay for these unless you’re in the 1%. They might be OK but certainly not worth the money. Even if you are independently wealthy, you want to be hanging out with us plebs at Grey Cup anyhow. For $150 you can see the Flutie Brothers band live on Game Day though. Sigh.
Check http://www.greycupfestival105.ca for the most up to date information on all the official parties and events.