The game is sold out — and so are some of the parties — but there are still plenty of opportunities to partake in Grey Cup festivities, with Vancouver being this year’s host city. CFL fans are in a league of their own and even if you’re not a Canadian football fan, it’s worth dropping in on a Grey Cup party or two. Team fan clubs host “socials” and it’s always a friendly competition to have the best blowout. Expect to see grown men (and growing number of women) face-painted and dressed in team regalia, trading buttons and badges like Boy Scouts and chugging beer like frat brothers. Here, some of the best corporate-sponsored and fan-organized parties to stop by.
Consistently one of the best Grey Cup parties, this annual social was established, according to organizers, “a result of the wildly successful 1991 Grey Cup Festival in Winnipeg, with the intention of bringing the spirit of that memorable week to many future Grey Cups.” They’ve done a good job. This year’s festivities feature live music, a performance by the Labatt Blue Lightning Dance Team, a so-called “Manitoba social buffet” including kielbasa and rye bread and, la pièce de résistance, a limited edition Touchdown Manitoba 2011 lapel to add to your collection. Buy your tickets $18 in advance or at the door. Friday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Vancouver Convention Centre, Exhibition Hall C.
A second chance for the sports fans of Vancouver to party outside in the downtown core. Head down to Beatty and Robson streets for this riot (hopefully not) of an open-air celebration. The main attraction is a series of free concerts on the PlayNow.com Main Stage, including headline performances by Said the Whale and Stars of Boulevard. Get there early and enjoy a free pancake-and-sausage breakfast compliments of the Calgary Grey Cup Committee, and score a cowboy hat and mini football. Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Molson Canadian House
Enjoy some cold ones and performances by all the dance teams at this annual beer garden and concert series. The party will sprawl over 90,000 square feet of the Vancouver Convention Centre West, making it the largest celebration in town. The musical lineup includes Colin James, Johnny Cash’s original band the Tennessee Three and house DJ Skratch Bastid. There’s also an all-you-can-eat tailgate Sunday brunch available for an extra $23, with $2 going to the United Way. One-day wristbands available at the door for $35; three-day passes sold out. Friday and Saturday 12 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Spirit of Edmonton
Eskimo fans get the party started early, opening their hospitality (read: free) suite at the Sheraton Wall Centre on Thursday night for an extra-long weekend of cheerleading, chugging and cover bands. The annual Spirit of Edmonton’s breakfast has been filling bellies for more than 35 years and is so popular, they’ve added a Friday morning noshing this year. Good thing, too: The Saturday breakfast buffet is already sold-out. Don’t miss out on the Sluice Juice, and don’t ask what’s in it. $100 gets you a table for 10. Sheraton Grand Ballroom. Thursday 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday 2 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Not traditionally one of the best fan parties; still, with the Lions playing for the Cup you’ll want to touch down here. Rub shoulders with team owners, players and alumni and see the Felions up-close and personal. Tickets $15 at the door. Friday 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., Vancouver Convention Centre East, Exhibition Hall A, Ballroom A, B, C.
Image courtesy of Anna-Lena König.