Party's going strong

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- There was hoopla!

It's been so long since there's been hoopla at a Grey Cup here. But there was hoopla.

It was a real grand national drunk celebration of Canadiana at a Vancouver Grey Cup for the first time in decades.

That the Edmonton Eskimos threw a wet blanket on the "Party On The Pacific'' was noticeable. Thousands of fans wearing Green and Gold, shouts of "Eskimos!'' in the streets and the "Spirit of Edmonton,'' the epicentre of it all, as always, helped to cover up the loss of the B.C. Lions.

A COMPLETE CONTRAST

The 1999 edition of the event was such a non-event preceded by so many no-fun Grey Cups here in the past, this was a complete contrast.

Even though Vancouverites didn't totally turn on to it and the wet coasters didn't totally lose their reputation as stuffed shirts - something which was hoped would happen to convince Canadians that the 2010 Olympics will come close to anywhere near as much fun as Montreal in 1976 - it was a party.

Highlighted by the first Grey Cup parade here in years and the first to be nationally televised from anywhere in more than a decade, more than 100,000 people lined the streets to watch the event. More than 6,000 people were involved, complete with a fly-past of four jets from CFB Cold Lake, Alberta, and getting a glimpse of grand marshal Pamela Anderson.

"If a Grey Cup in Edmonton is a 10, then this one has been about an eight,'' said Smitty (first name William but no one knows it), one of the staple characters of the Grey Cup festival from year to year.

"B.C. was more into it this year. It was a whole lot different than 1999,'' added the Toronto fan who was married at a Calgary pancake breakfast here that year.

"In 1999, it was so bad that people didn't know there was a Grey Cup here. This year they definitely knew there was a Grey Cup here.''

Smitty says this really puts the pressure on Toronto for the 2007 Grey Cup, the first one to be awarded to Hogtown in 18 years.

"If Toronto can match this it will be considered an amazing success. I sure hope so. That last one was so terrible, it was the reason we didn't get it back.''

When the Saskatchewan Roughriders made it to the game in 1989, their fans came by all modes of transportation. They hit town wearing all their paraphernalia, walked a few blocks around town and were made to feel so out of place they returned to their hotels, took it all off and emerged looking like everybody else on the street.

GREY CUP GET-UPS EVERYWHERE

This year Grey Cup get-ups were everywhere.

"The Grey Cups here in 1990, 1994 and 1999 were not remotely close to being good Grey Cups, but on the whole this one was a good Grey Cup,'' said Richard Levear, a veteran of 35 Grey Cups who heads up the Calgary committee.

"The Lions not getting to the game did dampen a lot of spirit, and it is too bad they didn't schedule anything for Thursday. The crowds were all here, but the only places they had to go to party were Calgary's Hoe-down and The Spirit of Edmonton.''

The Spirit was the biggest benefactor.

"This has been one of our best ones,'' said chairman Bruce Keltie. "We were full on Thursday and at 8 p.m. on Friday we had as many as 1,000 fans lined up to get in, which is as many as we had in the room.

"Our room turns over pretty good, so we kept the flow going and everybody got in. It was excellent.

"I know Touchdown Manitoba is happy and Saskatchewan has done well with their setup.

"We pretty much had success built in this year. We had 800 fans from Edmonton right on the property,'' he said of 420 rooms in the massive Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre twin tower hotel, where The Spirit has been headquartered.

Today is game day and the game was the first in recent memory which was sold out almost two months before kickoff. And while the want ads bought by Lion fans to sell their tickets didn't number in the hundreds and hundreds as was the case when the Lions last lost a Western final and didn't get to the game, there were dozens of ads and tickets offered on EBay daily.


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