Saturday in Edmonton

It was a great day to be in Edmonton this weekend – I’m not really a football fan, but the excitement in the city for Grey Cup weekend was palpable. It helps that where we live is right in the thick of things, but based on the numbers of people on the streets – tourists and residents alike were out in full force taking in one of our biggest events this year.

We started our Saturday at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market (which seemed to be emptier than usual, no doubt because of the festivities downtown), then wandered over to the Cosmopolitan Music Society, which was hosting the 9th Royal Bison Craft & Art Fair.

Royal Bison

Inside  the Royal Bison

There was some uncertainty earlier this year whether or not Royal Bison would continue, as founder Raymond Biesinger moved to Montreal, but thankfully, three of the artists/vendors saved the fair from demise. It’s such a great event – I love the unique products, but also the variety available.

Royal Bison

Fun vinyl accessories by Majesty Inc.

Royal Bison

Suitcase amps!

Royal Bison

Beautiful jewellery by Saraswati

Royal Bison

Omar Mouallem is multitalented – associate editor at Avenue Edmonton, he is also a writer and rapper

Royal Bison

Sarah Jackson of A Jam Story was nice enough to tell us our love fortune (something we missed out on at the last ArtsScene event)

We picked up a few gifts, then zoomed back home, just in time to catch the Grey Cup parade just outside our building.

2010 Grey Cup Parade

There were snowbirds

2010 Grey Cup Parade

And cheerleaders

2010 Grey Cup Parade

Mascots

2010 Grey Cup Parade

And smile-inducing floats

2010 Grey Cup Parade

Horses

2010 Grey Cup Parade

And those that clean up after them

2010 Grey Cup Parade

Our armed forces

2010 Grey Cup Parade

And of course…a sea of green

I knew from attending an Eskimos game against Saskatchewan that Roughriders fans are rabid supporters of their team, but I really didn’t know how much until this weekend. It really was amazing to be a part of, if only for a few days. (You can check out Mack’s post on the parade here, and see the rest of his photos here.)

After ducking inside to warm up (funny how staying stationary in even mildly cold temperatures can be chilly), we wandered over to Huddle Town, centering on Churchill Square, to check out the festivities.

2010 Grey Cup Festival

A football game in front of City Hall

It was really amazing to us how many people were outside wandering around, enjoying themselves, not minding the cold. We hear so often that being a winter city prevents more programming of events outdoors – and though I recognize that the weather was actually not too bad, to some extent, the “build it, and they will come” mantra seems to hold true.

2010 Grey Cup Festival

The crowds

The Gridiron Zone, for example, held in the square just south of the Stanley Milner Library, is empty most of the year. One reason provided was that the concrete isn’t sound due to the parkade structure just underneath. Well, everything seemed fine this weekend – as the space hosted sponsor booths, and, what else – a bar.

2010 Grey Cup Festival

Inside the Zone

Lines seemed to be the word of the day, however – besides the massive wait for the Zipline (please, please bring it back in the future!), there were lines to get into the Spirit of Edmonton, the Huddle Dome and even the tented sports bar by City Hall!

2010 Grey Cup Festival

Lines everywhere

In spite of the waits, everyone was in such a good mood. We even got a random hug from a woman walking around with a huge “Rider Nation” flag!

2010 Grey Cup Festival

Spread the love

There really was something for everyone though, and enough activities to keep crowds busy. The music at the outdoor stage kept things lively, and of course, food is never a bad thing. It was great to see Eva Sweet out so we could warm up with some hot waffles!

2010 Grey Cup Festival

Fozzy with Chris Jericho

2010 Grey Cup Festival

Eva Sweet (without a truck!)

Though I’m sure people didn’t come out for the free stuff, there was quite a bit of swag to be had, some more random than others (we took the can of baked beans, but we live nearby; who would want to carry it around with them?). My favourites were the Mardi Gras-inspired beads from the organizers of TigerTown and the Grey Cup bandana.

2010 Grey Cup Festival

Mack with his swag!

For non-sports fans, Alberta House could have been a bit of a sanctuary, with a good variety of arts and culture programming. We finished off our tour of Huddle Town with a quick demo by Brad Smoliak, who used quick-cook barley from Progressive Foods to make a risotto (which also featured pecorino from The Cheesiry, and wild boar bacon from Hog Wild).

2010 Grey Cup Festival

Brad Smoliak at work

2010 Grey Cup Festival

The finished product (I’ve made it before, but never with bacon – it tastes so much better with bacon!)

Kudos to the organizers for such a great weekend! Hopefully it leads to even more events downtown in the winter.

Saskatchewan Roughriders vs. Edmonton Eskimos

As a volunteer appreciation gesture, my fellow board members and I were fortunate enough to receive two free tickets to an Edmonton Eskimos game this year – we even had the opportunity to pick from any of their home games. I offered to take Amanda (who had never before attended an Eskimos match), and she chose last Saturday’s tilt against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Eskimos

Roughriders vs. Eskimos

Though it wasn’t nearly as chilly as my below-zero experience last October, the intermittent rain during the first half and breeze throughout didn’t make it an entirely comfortable three hours either. Then again, we were probably two of the wimpiest spectators in our section – many around us were simply dressed in sweaters and jerseys.

Amanda and me

Amanda and me, all bundled up

Amanda’s principal reason for choosing a Saskatchewan game was that she had heard-tell about fervent, zealous Roughriders fans. Between the painted faces, green wigs and costumes, I can now verify those tales firsthand.

Though the majority of the fans to the left of us were cheering for Saskatchewan, there were thankfully still a fair amount of Eskimos fans scattered throughout our section, which made the scoring plays and the ultimate win even more fun to celebrate.

Eskimos

Field action

Though it wasn’t the most entertaining game to watch, scoring-wise, we were both happy that we were able to be a part of their 17-14 victory. The relief on the field (and in the stadium) was palpable.

Esks win!

Esks win!

With a record of 2-6, the Eskimos will try to continue their “streak” in Calgary on Labour Day. Go Esks!

Friday Night Football: BC Lions vs. Edmonton Eskimos

When I told my family I had complimentary tickets to the football game on Friday, they laughed – they wouldn’t subject themselves to inclement weather even if provided with the opportunity free of charge. At half time, I started to agree with them.

Mack and I “bundled up” (in quotation marks because we did not have the a) winter boots, b) blanket, or c) long underwear that those sitting around us clearly did) and headed to Commonwealth Stadium after work on Friday to watch the Eskimos play against the BC Lions. I am not a football fan, but I haven’t been to a game in several years, so we went.

Before the start of the game, when we could still feel our extremities

The snow that fell just before the opening kickoff soon relented, but the wind did not, constantly reminding us about our mistake of under-dressing for the game.

Esks’ introductions

A flurried opening kickoff

At the end of the first quarter, we ducked into a heated concession area for a hot chocolate and a strange cheese-stuffed pretzel (enduring the cold translated into free reign when it came to greasy food, at least in my mind). The “mozzarella” had a consistency in between liquid and solid, and wasn’t all that pleasant to eat.

Mack with the pretzel

Half time meant hot dogs, and we made sure to take our time warming up. Though it was only around –10 with the wind chill, it felt much colder, sitting stationary and at mercy to the wind.

Other cold fans get warm at half-time

As for the football? The Eskimos trailed for most of the night, but with a minute left in the fourth quarter, managed to score a touchdown which vaulted them 31 to BC’s 27. If the Eskimos won, we figured the cold would have been worth it.

De-fence!

With 22 seconds left however, the Lions managed to deflate the whole of Commonwealth Stadium, with a touchdown that won them the game, 34-31.

Will the Eskimos make the playoffs? You’ll have to stay tuned. As for whether we’ll be back to another game soon – maybe, but a toque will definitely not be required at that time.