Organizers adjust for pandemic Grey Cup, but big celebration still expected in Hamilton

The Grey Cup has been played through snow, ice, and fog, but never through a pandemic.

And while the normal pomp and circumstance in the days leading up to the CFL’s championship game will still exist, Grey Cup Week in Hamilton this year will definitely be a scaled-back version of Canada’s biggest sporting event.

Many of the nightly concerts and parties have been downsized or completely scrapped, and the traditional parties for each team’s fan base are now combined into an Eastern and Western Social Hall for each division.

“Every team is represented,” said Grey Cup Festival Director Greg Dunnett. “For those of us who have been lucky enough to attend one or many Grey Cups, the fans coming in their attire from head to toe is what makes this a great Canadian tradition.”

READ MORE: Things to do at the 2021 Grey Cup Festival in Hamilton

Attendance at Tim Hortons Field will also be smaller than hoped. Organizers say only hundreds of temporary spaces have been added for fans, and they are expecting around 24,500 people to be at Sunday’s game rather than the 30,000-plus they would have in a normal year.

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The festival crew hopes that normal year is 2023, when Hamilton gets the game once again.

“We had a pretty elaborate and extensive plan (for 2021) to bring in a whole bunch of community events that showcased the fact that this is the first Grey Cup in Hamilton in 25 years,” Dennett said. “So we’ve got a bunch of events that we’re keeping in our pocket, so when we host in 2023, we celebrate the community and the renaissance it’s had over the last few decades.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans heading to Hamilton' Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans heading to Hamilton

Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans heading to Hamilton

The economic impact is still up in the air for the city, which is not expected to see as many tourists because of the pandemic and because Hamilton is one of the teams involved in the game.

But the lack of official CFL parties might end up being a positive for Steeltown.

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“Maybe it’s going to be better for our local businesses because of that,” said Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Keanin Loomis. “The economic impact in some cases will be higher because of there not being as many CFL-sanctioned events.”

READ MORE: Ticats, Bombers at opposite ends in Grey Cup contest

And while 2023 will be the big showcase, Loomis says don’t underestimate what 2021 has to offer.

“We’re ready to welcome everybody – we’ve got a rapidly revitalizing downtown, we’re becoming more of a tourist destination than we ever have been and we’re ready to roll out the red carpet.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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