by Colton Hordichuk
Regina - Now less than a month until the 101st Grey Cup, the Saskatchewan Roughriders organization is in full preparation mode for the big game and pre-game festivities.
For Jim Hopson, president and CEO of the Riders, and co-chair of the Grey Cup organizing committee, this year is different from the previous championship games the Queen City hosted.
“In the past, our previous two Grey Cups in ’95 and ’03, we were kind of in the background to be quite honest,” says Hopson, who was on the Grey Cup board in 2003.
“The organization in those days was fairly small. We were struggling off and on the field, and we didn’t have a lot of resources to operate the team as it was. Then you bring in the Grey Cup and it was really a challenge for us.”
This year the Riders brought in Neil Donnelly to act as executive director of the Grey Cup Festival. Donnelly, in turn, has a number of volunteers and staff at his disposal to help him prepare for a variety of events. Hopson says the Riders brought in about 3,000 volunteers to help with the big game.
One such volunteer is Chris Brischuk, the vice-chair of the Scotia Bank Gala. Marketing manager for service development at SaskTel, Brischuk began working on the gala last September. He also helped put together plans for a pre-dinner party and a concert, both at the Casino Regina, as well as a Saskatchewan-themed dinner at the Delta Hotel. Although the position can be stressful, Brischuk has learned not to over-think things.
“Do all the planning you can, but realize that if you use common sense, things will work out,” said the volunteer and Rider season ticket holder.
In addition to the gala, other volunteers will be working at bars, in parking services, and even helping out with greeting the media and players at the airport. They will also help with a security committee.
Most of the preparation for Grey Cup week festivities is complete and it’s just a matter of waiting for the events to happen. The Grey Cup game itself is now the focus. Hopson says they are currently concentrating on parking accommodations, video production, and promotional activities during the game. However, their biggest concern is out of their control: the unpredictable Saskatchewan weather.
“If we got snow, if we got wind, it’s going to be a challenge. The last Grey Cup wasn’t exactly the best day,” Hopson said.
“But people still made it, and still had fun and away we went. I remember everyone wore skidoo suits, and that’s just the nature of Saskatchewan.”