When the Grey Cup is finally hoisted by the winning team on November 29 at the Grey Cup Championship, it will mark the end of the Cup’s whirlwind journey through Manitoba. In an effort to promote the 103rd Grey Cup Festival – the range of activities and entertainment that go along with the big game – we teamed up with the Winnipeg Free Press, VIA Rail and several industry operators to award a trip to Churchill to one of the CFL’s most passionate fans.

The Grey Cup tour of Manitoba's northern communities.

In late October, the contest winner, Marge Avent and her husband Ted joined the Grey Cup, its handler Dennis Dowell, Winnipeg Blue Bomber alumni Doug Brown and Brett MacNeil, Winnipeg Free Press writer Jeff Hamilton, and our own Michel LaRivière on a tour of 11 cities, towns, and communities along the VIA Rail route from Winnipeg to Churchill and back again.

Local fans were invited to come see the Grey Cup and meet Blue Bombers alumni at community-hosted events in each location, including The Pas, Flin Flon, Snow Lake and Thompson. In addition to the photo opportunities, Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities provided sporting equipment, new uniforms, and supported the costs of coaching staff to local sporting groups.

The Grey Cup tour of Manitoba's northern communities.

The Cup’s northern tour not only created publicity surrounding the Grey Cup and its festivities, it also included more Manitobans into the Grey Cup celebration.

Although Winnipeg will be hosting the Grey Cup Championship Game on November 29, we want the whole province to participate in Grey Cup excitement. We are connecting with thousands of rural and northern Manitobans to make sure they can also enjoy the Grey Cup spirit. ~ Jason Smith, President of the 103rd Grey Cup Festival

Once in Churchill, our contest winners, Marge and Ted, got to see wild polar bears roam the tundra and hopped on a helicopter to fly with the Cup to a polar bear den in the northern wilderness. Marge and Ted sent us this lovely thank you note after their trip:

We relive this wonderful trip as we relay the stories of this great travel experience. It wasn’t only the sights and events that made this trip so special, it was the people we travelled with. It was, indeed, a pleasure to have met you all, and thank you for making this “trip of a lifetime” so much fun and memorable. Winners? YES, BIG TIME!! ~ Marge and Ted Avent, contest winners and avid Blue Bombers fans.

Grey Cup stories from the north

Winnipeg Free Press reporter Jeff Hamilton wove some lovely stories about his eight-day northern journey with the Cup…

Follow the Grey Cup as it heads north

There’s certainly something to say about the power of sport and its ability to unite a group of people. It’s easy to see the kind of spirit present in Winnipeg around the Blue and Gold, even during times when there hasn’t been all that much to celebrate in recent times. But what will that spirit look like in places like Gillam? Or Pikwitonei? Or Ilford? These are the answers I most look forward to finding out. Read more

Team loyalties split in northern Manitoba

Whenever the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders meet, the games are among the most exciting of the CFL season. For fans of each team, it’s more than just a game. It’s the chance to flex their territorial muscle, and the difference between a win and a loss, simply put, is extreme joy or unbearable heartache. Read more

Thrill of a lifetime

Long before he moved move to The Pas for work, Harvey Ander sold peanuts and popcorn at the old Osborne Stadium where the Winnipeg Blue Bombers did battle from the mid-1930s until it closed in 1952. It’s there his love for the Blue and Gold and the Canadian Football League first blossomed. Read more

Fan’s Ford sports Bombers colours

There are fans of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and then there’s Thompson resident Allan Goudy. Goudy, a lifelong fan of the Blue and Gold, not only wears his colours proudly, he also drives in them. Last year, when he and his wife, Diane, were shopping for a new vehicle, he saw a bright gold Ford Escape. Right away, the wheels in his head started to turn. Read more

Cup tour puts focus on anti-bullying campaign

Thousands of students in Thompson took part in an anti-bullying campaign this week that included a visit with the Grey Cup and speeches from two former Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Brett MacNeil and Doug Brown, both former players with the Winnipeg Football Club, headlined the event, giving thoughtful addresses on the importance of a good education, as well as the effects of bullying. Read more

Grey Cup choppered to remote polar-bear den in northern Manitoba

There are not too many places in Canada the Grey Cup hasn’t visited over its 106 years of existence — but it was able to cross off a new spot off the list when it was airlifted via helicopter to a remote location near Churchill Friday afternoon. The adventure, which included a stop at a polar-bear den in the middle of the forest, is the first time the trophy has travelled in a helicopter. Read more

His Cup runneth over

Over the last 19 years there have been many special moments for Dennis Dowell. He’s toured the country coast-to-coast, walked out to thousands of cheering fans to deliver the trophy at the conclusion of the Grey Cup game, taken the trophy to Barbados, where it rode in a submarine, and just the other day he visited polar bears in Churchill. Read more

The Grey Cup tour of Manitoba's northern communities.

For more information on the Grey Cup Festival, visit www.103GreyCupFestival.ca.