Sunday was the Canadian equivalent of the Superbowl, the CFL Grey Cup! And not just any Grey Cup, the 100th Grey Cup!
Pretty big deal since it was being played in Toronto at the Rogers Centre, AND the Toronto Argonauts were actually playing. And they beat the Calgary Stampeders! Exciting times. Downtown was INSANE.
My work was putting on the Sun Life Grey Cup Fan March parade before the game, and when they asked me to volunteer at the festivities I said yes yes. Basically the plan was to have a little pep rally at UofT’s Varsity Stadium before the game, and then escort the cup (yes, the actual cup) the 5km through the downtown core to the Rogers Centre.
My job for the day was “Banner Manager” which means I got to manage the Fan March banner being carried in the parade. I was very excited about this job, and of course took it very seriously. I was assigned three banner volunteers, and coincidentally three good friends of mine were free that day, so I roped Emily, Joanna and Dawn into joining me. Except Dawn ended up getting sick the day of the event, so I was down one banner minion.
A-okay though, Jo, Emily and I figured we could handle the banner duties ourselves.
We were sad to be missing our little Dawnald, but we were excited about our job.
The pep rally before the parade was pretty fun. There were definitely some characters in attendance…
That guy was funny. Do you think he likes Canada? I think he might…
These guys were pretty awesome also:
I’m pretty sure they thought Joanna and I were famous or important as they wanted photos with both of us with their own camera. We are neither, but if it makes them happy, sure, we can pretend.
And we had a little hangout session with Cabbie from TSN who was the MC of the parade.
Who is super nice and enthusiastic and hilarious. The crowd just loved him. He also helped us with some banner maneuvering during the parade, which I was thankful for, because it got a little crazy.
Emily, being the social butterfly that she is, befriended the Argos mascot…
And she also got quite intimate with the Grey Cup.
And then it was march time! The march was INSANE. Just insane. Way more people showed up than we had originally anticipated (which is of course a great thing), and what was supposed to be a leisurely organized stroll down Yonge Street turned into absolute chaos. All volunteers had gone through training on their roles before the event, but no one could be prepared for the mass amounts of people who showed up. There were literally thousands, and walking in the parade felt like trying to walk through a mosh pit.
This picture pretty much sums it up I think…
Insanity. We are actually in that photo WITH the banner, and you can’t even see us because there are just too many people. We seriously got stampeded (just like the Stampeders did later, har har).
Originally we were supposed to be carrying the banner at the front of the parade (where banners should be), but because the cup was in the parade as well, it was decided that the banner would act as a good barrier between the fans and the cup, so fans wouldn’t rush it. While this was a good idea in theory, there were just way too many people, and the banner was just not big enough to act as any sort of barricade. It was crazy. People wanted to be as close to the cup as possible (of course they did!), and were therefore rushing the BANNER (which, let’s be honest, no one cares about except for me, the Banner Manager).
I can see half my face but no banner. I have never been shoved around so much in my life. One of my coworkers who was with the cup had to be basically held up by a Mountie (who was only supposed to be there for show but ended up acting as extra security) the entire time because she was getting pushed around so much.
Over the 5km journey, the cup was passed off to fans with wristbands every 10 seconds or so. This is such a Canadian thing, allowing people to actually carry the cup. How many people have been able to carry the Vince Lombardi trophy? HUNDREDS of people carried the Grey Cup on Sunday. And they LOVED it!
Poor Joanna was on the end of the banner and was basically getting trampled, and one of the security guys who was guarding the cup noticed and came back to help us. He was soo nice, and so protective of us and our banner. He was literally shoving people away from us. He eventually helped us roll the banner up and push through the throngs of people and run it up to the front of the parade. In front of the cup so we could actually walk and people could actually see the banner and be able to tell that it was an actual parade. I was very grateful for his help. I’m pretty sure I thanked him a million times.
We picked up quite a few extra banner volunteers along the way to the Rogers Centre…
Which I was happy about, because that banner was heavy after carrying it for hours. And the Calgary fan on the end there was so incredibly into the banner carrying. He would not let go of that banner. I think we made his life.
Also, another man came over and decided to take over as banner manager and started telling us what we needed to do with the banner…and I do not get down like that, so I was all “Excuse me sir, there is only ONE Banner Manager in this parade and that is ME! You are more than welcome to be a banner volunteer, but you will be listening to me.” I may have yelled this slightly aggressively. Emily and Joanna were dying laughing.
He was laughing also, but he was quiet on the managing-front after that. And he carried the banner the entire way with us and we made friends with him.
We ended up getting separated from the rest of the parade around Dundas Square when thousands of people swarmed around the cup, ultimately stopping it, and we didn’t realize this and just kept going. We got so far ahead that the banner was basically its own parade, with hundreds of people surrounding us. We stumbled across a security team who decided to help us out and start leading us…down the wrong street. So we had to backtrack our following a little bit. But I don’t think they minded.
But we caught up with the cup again and escorted that puppy riiiight into the Rogers Centre right before the game.
It was such an amazing event, and so much fun to be a part of. Honestly so much fun. I have never seen so many excited and enthusiastic people and I totally got caught up in the energy of everyone. The entire day was hilarious, and I was so glad to have my friends with me! Best event I have been involved in since, well I can’t even remember when. I loved the organized chaos of it all. Success all around!
I felt the patriotic love! (and could I have said the word “banner” any more throughout this post? Probably not…)