This fall is going to see plenty of historical nostalgia around the 100th Grey Cup, and celebrations looking back at the first Grey Cup in 1909 have already started. One of the most interesting moments in Grey Cup history is more recent, though, and it's not going to be recreated by the league, but rather by fans; members of the Calgary Stampeders' Grey Cup Committee are putting together a Grey Cup Train Experience that will recall the wild and wacky cross-country train ride of Stampeders' fans to Toronto in 1948, which ended with gonzo pancake breakfasts on the steps of City Hall, a horse being ridden into the lobby of the famed Royal York Hotel and the Westerners taking the Grey Cup home following a 12-7 victory over Ottawa. It was an event that kickstarted the modern tradition of the Grey Cup Festival as a gigantic party for fans from across the league, and it's perfectly appropriate for it to again be celebrated at such a historical Grey Cup. The Toronto Star's Bob Mitchell has some comments on the rationale here from one of the trip organizers, Dave Miller:
"Most of us won't be around to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that first train ride so we thought why not re-create it for the 100th game," said Miller, who will be making his 35 Grey Cup trip. "We've always had dancing in the street, cooking pancakes, and one of the most famous things was the riding of the horse into the Royal York. In the years since, we've gotten a horse into a few hotels (other cities) but never the Royal York but we got as close as the front door in 2007."
As for riding that horse into the Royal York, well, stay tuned.
"Sometimes it's easier to ask for apologies afterwards (than get permission)," Miller said. "We've been in other hotels (in other cities) using freight elevators and freight entrances. We're determined to get into the Royal York somehow."
This should be like a fascinating trip, and it's one fans from across the country can get in on. As there's no train from Calgary to Toronto any more, fans will bus up to Edmonton, then board the midnight train (going anywhere?) on Nov. 19 for a four-day journey filled with live entertainment, station parties in Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Sudbury, and an eventual grand arrival at Toronto's Union Station on Nov. 22, complete with chuckwagons and pancakes. For those interested in jumping on the night train (or is it a rock and roll train?), more information's available at Dash Tours. It's great to see fans taking this sort of initiative and honouring one of the CFL's most unique moments; while the game's always the key focus, the parties and sense of national community that have sprung up around the Grey Cup are hugely significant as well, and the cross-country trip Stamps' fans took back in 1948 was a crucial part of getting that going. This is one train that won't be in vain.