Grey Cup Festival guide: How to make the most of the Calgary experience

Calgary plays host to the CFL and fans from across the country as Stampede Park is transformed into a festival celebrating the league.

The Grey Cup Festival runs from Wednesday, Nov. 20 to Saturday, Nov. 23, and features a variety of events for all ages.

Festivities get started on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at noon as the Grey Cup, the championship trophy of the CFL, arrives at Olympic Plaza. And then the official kick-off party to open the festival starts Wednesday night at the Big Four Roadhouse.

Whether or not you’re going to the big game, here are some of the activities available to Calgarians and visitors alike.

Family-friendly:

The free street festival takes over parking lot 3 at Stampede Park, featuring a number of outdoor spectacles like a tube slide, outdoor stage, 5.5-storey high inflatable dome called the “stratosphere” and evening fireworks.

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The indoor family zone in BMO Centre includes games and displays including an obstacle course from the Canadian Armed Forces, displays from the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, and a toddler zone.

The street festival and indoor family zone are open from Wednesday to Saturday.

Global News Radio 770 CHQR and Global News Calgary will also be broadcasting from the street festival.

A Stampede staple — the free pancake breakfast — will be hosted Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings at 9:30 a.m. at the street festival’s outdoor stage.

The sold-out Grey Cup rodeo — a Grey Cup week first — runs Friday at 5 p.m. at the Corral at Stampede Park.

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And Olympic Plaza hosts free skating Thursday through Saturday.

For football fans:

The annual “Fan State of the League” address on Friday morning at Boyce Theatre will see CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie bring fans up to speed on what the league has been working on this past season, like expanding into Atlantic Canada, growing the game internationally and rule changes. The event is free but has limited space.

Grey Cup festival kickoff: Rocco Romano and Jon Cornish

Grey Cup festival kickoff: Rocco Romano and Jon Cornish

The CFL Players Association will have its official players headquarters open at Fionn MacCool’s in Eau Claire, allowing fans to meet players from all CFL teams during the afternoons of Thursday through Saturday.

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Saturday afternoon, Dutton’s Lounge in the Scotiabank Saddledome hosts the Canadian Football Hall of Fame reception, with hall of fame members like Paul Bennett, Brent Johnson, Derrell “Mookie” Mitchell, Damon Allen, Jon Cornish and Rocco Romano. Reception tickets are $20.

READ MORE: Greer, Fernandez, Cornish named to 2019 Canadian Football Hall of Fame

Team parties — a staple of Grey Cup week that see fans from across the country gather ahead of the big game — get started on Thursday in BMO Centre, where fans can enjoy live music, DJs, food and beverages. Ticket prices range from free to $20.

Cheer teams from across the league will be performing at the Saddledome on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in the Grey Cup cheer extravaganza. Tickets for the extravaganza are $20.

Live music:

The free outdoor stage at the street festival features a wide variety of musicians from Wednesday to Saturday. Artists include The Dungarees, Jocelyn Alice, The Heebee-jeebees, The Dudes and Michael Bernard Fitzgerald. Evenings at the outdoor stage conclude with fireworks at 9 p.m.

Grey Cup festival kickoff: Randy Ambrosie and Mike Franco

Grey Cup festival kickoff: Randy Ambrosie and Mike Franco

McMahon Stadium will host a pair of concert evenings dubbed “Fusion: music + Grey Cup.”

Friday evening’s hip hop-focused show had Fetty Wap headline with special guest Cartel Madras. Saturday evening, an EDM-centric show features Nervo with Young Bombs. Tickets to the “Fusion” shows vary in price.

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The Rotary House at Stampede Park hosts a trio of Canadian rock bands, including Our Lady Peace, I Mother Earth and Dear Rouge. Tickets to the Saturday night concert are $75.

Game day:

McMahon Stadium will be the epicenter for the CFL and fans ahead of the Grey Cup with a trio of pregame festivities occupying the east parking lots starting at noon.

A free fan zone will be located in the northeast corner. The outdoor tailgate features “traditional tailgate fare,” adult beverages and live music, for a $35 entry fee. The indoor tailgate expands the food and beverage menu under a giant tent, and features Brett Kissell as music headliner. Indoor tailgate tickets are $95.

No public parking will be available on site at the stadium and organizers encourage the use of public transit to get to the game.

Calgary Transit is extending its free fare zone to include the Victoria Park Stampede station during the Grey Cup festival, increasing frequency and extending the hours of operation of the Red Line.

Calgary Transit will also be honouring a Grey Cup ticket for use on transit on game day.

For a full guide to the Grey Cup festival, visit the festival website or download the festival app.

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