Spirit of Edmonton breakfast still a big part of Grey Cup weekend after four decades

Spirit of Edmonton breakfast still a big part of Grey Cup weekend after four decades
JONES: New mascot unveiled for Grey Cup in Edmonton
A breakfast started by Edmonton Eskimo fans more than 40 years ago, will return to the city as an essential event of Grey Cup weekend.

Close to 4,000 people are expected to attend the Spirit of Edmonton breakfast on Nov. 23 and 24 at the Shaw Conference Centre. As the first quickly sold out, volunteers added a second.

"It was the first sold-out event for the Grey Cup this year," said Keith Keating, former chair of the Spirit of Edmonton. "In lots of city's it's a harder ticket to get than a ticket to the game.

Attendees are entertained by cheer teams and live music as they enjoy the event's signature drink: sluice juice.

Organizers won't reveal the ingredients, saying only they use a 500-gallon tank and pump system to serve it.

The breakfast is a part of Spirit of Edmonton party that runs from Nov. 22 to 24 at the Westin Hotel. The annual party is hosted by over a hundred volunteers in every city where the Grey Cup is played.

Former Edmonton Eskimos president Rick LeLacheur, now B.C. Lions president, was involved in the first Spirit of Edmonton breakfast held in Calgary in 1975 when the Stampeders hosted the Eskimos.

"It was to really get the Eskimo fans going and pumped up to get ready for the game," LeLacheur said.

"Back in those days you couldn't get a liquor permit on a Sunday so we had all the radio and TV stations in Edmonton promote it as BYOB."

"Everybody knows about the Spirit of Edmonton room and the Spirit of Edmonton breakfast," LeLacheur said. "It's been around the longest of any of the the teams having events at the Grey Cup."

Edmonton last hosted the Grey Cup in 2010. This year's game starts at 4 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 25.

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And Beaver won’t just be making a single appearance, he’s been contracted to make cameo appearances throughout the entire week of the 106th Grey Cup. And, your correspondent has further learned, he’s been signed to an unprecedented multi-year Grey Cup contract.

Beaver obtained official status as emblem of Canada when “An Act to provide for the recognition of the Beaver as a symbol of sovereignty of Canada,” received royal assent on March 24, 1975.

That’s right, the Saskatchewan Roughriders official mascot, is not from the squirrel family, but from an entirely different family of rodents known as Geomyidee, which includes the Beaver family.

The Grey Cup organizers took a bit of a chance by going with a beaver for a mascot considering that it somehow became a euphemism for … well a lot of Canadian teams (North Battleford Beavers, etc.) used to be named Beavers, but not many anymore.

And Justin, being the first name of a highly unpopular prime minister in Oil-berta thanks to the pipeline problem, is not a first name a lot of newborns have been given lately, either.

But the league signed off on J.B. and will bring him back for the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary next year after he ‘Brings The Heat’ here, and for all the Grey Cups until it’s Edmonton’s turn to hold another one.

There’s more to the City of Champions when it comes to teams and athletes, there’s the mascots that cavort on fields and stadiums around the world that come out of Edmonton’s International Mascot Corporation that began here in 1983.

The firm that has grown to include two manufacturing facilities in Edmonton and another in Atlanta has delivered costumes to 82 countries around the globe.

Designed by Tom Sapp, IMC’s creative director and North Americas leading designer of character costumes, Beaver will switch logoed outfits each year for each Grey Cup, a gift from the Edmonton organizing committee.

From Heidi and Howdy for the Calgary Olympic Winter Games to the mascots for the Atlanta 1996, Salt Lake 2002 and Vancouver 2010 Olympics to Winnipeg 1999, FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup, IMC has given birth to hundreds of mascots.

The mascots for the NFL Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs, to baseball’s San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves, the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, and Edmonton Oilers and CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, B.C. Lions, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Edmonton Eskimos to a multitude of AHL, ECHL, WHL, OHA, AJHL, etc. teams, they’re everywhere.

IMC mascots are also found throughout the corporate world with customers including Sony Pictures, Nestle, Kellogg’s, Toys R Us, MGM, Six Flags, Warner Bros., DC Comics, Chick-fil-A, McDonalds, Boston Pizza, Hasbro, Coca-Cola, Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, Kraft, General Foods, Royal Bank, the Cannes Film Festival and a list that goes on and on.

In the case of Justin Beaver, a total of 18 — yes 18 — people were involved in his creation not including parents Duane Vienneau and Lauren Farnell of the organizing committee.

Justin was created by two artists, two sculptors, a purchaser-production coordinator, an embroidery designer, four seamstresses, a cutter, a production team leader, a two-person fitting staff, a quality control clerk, a finisher and with the involvement of an accountant and two customer service-sales representatives.

You could say that Justin Beaver really is a piece of work. But, again, they say that about Justin Bieber, too.