Manitoba

Blue Bombers, fans party through downtown Winnipeg with Grey Cup

Blue Bombers players and fans uncork three decades of bottled-up bliss Tuesday in downtown Winnipeg after Sunday's Grey Cup win.

About 10,000 fans line streets, gather at The Forks to celebrate long-awaited CFL championship team

Bombers players parade through downtown Winnipeg with the Grey Cup on Tuesday. (Michael Fazio/CBC)

The hopes of a city that waited nearly three decades to hoist the Grey Cup was encapsulated Tuesday in a fur coat-wearing quarterback chugging beers, a shirtless wide receiver blaring an air horn and a hometown hero throwing snowballs.

Winnipeg ate it all up Tuesday afternoon, as a rambunctious bunch of Blue Bombers were feted in a parade worthy of a city that endured the longest championship drought of any CFL team — until Sunday.

Many players struggled to describe what it meant to hoist a chalice last lifted in Winnipeg in 1990.

"It's kinda hard to put this into words, what this means to us," linebacker Adam Bighill told the rally, his voice hoarse.

"Maybe because, like you guys, you ain't got no voice left!" he yelled.

Born in Winnipeg, running back Andrew Harris received a hero's welcome from some 10,000 fans who flocked to a downtown parade to celebrate the Blue Bombers. (Michael Fazio/CBC)

Bighill's enthusiasm personified three decades of bottled-up bliss, uncorked when Winnipeg won the CFL final 33-12 over the favoured Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Calgary.

The players basked in the love of 10,000 fans, with rows of cheering Bomber supporters following the parade through the iconic Portage and Main intersection and toward The Forks, where a rally was held.

There was hometown favourite Andrew Harris revelling in the crowd's adoration, while tossing snowballs at his teammates in the vehicle up ahead.

There was a shirtless Lucky Whitehead — bedecked in goggles, a gold necklace and his signature red dreadlocks — hanging from the front door of a semi-truck, yanking on the air horn.

It is moments like head coach Mike O'Shea waving to the crowd while a cigar hangs from his mouth, or defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall nodding his approval as some fans cheer "defence!" specifically for him

Missed the parade? Watch the highlights:

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers take the Grey Cup for a ride in downtown Winnipeg with 10,000 of their biggest fans. 1:11

It is an energetic Chris Streveler, draped in a fur coat, shotgunning beers. "Need beer," he and his teammates would shout, and every so often Winnipeggers tossed a beer in his direction. 

It was for the fans who cheered and chanted, their arms outstretched so their phones could capture a party three decades in the making.

Some of them waited a long time for this celebration. 

Ken Burns, a season-ticket holder for 33 years, celebrates the Blue Bombers' 11th Grey Cup win after seeing the victory for himself in Calgary. (Michael Fazio/CBC)

"I can't describe it, man — relieved, elated," Ken Burns, a longtime season-ticket holder, said. 

"I was wishing and praying for this day forever and it's finally here," said Laureen Fuerst, one of three generations in her family born in a year when Winnipeg won the Grey Cup.

Thousands of fans like them flocked to The Forks, the final destination of the downtown victory bash.

At the rally, Harris was carefully tossing the Grey Cup in the air and catching it. The chalice that broke in half the day before had been repaired.

Bomber fans go wild for the Grey Cup champs in downtown Winnipeg. (Michael Fazio/CBC)

"Winnipeg, you got my back!" Harris yelled, one of three Blue Bombers who graduated from Winnipeg's Oak Park High School.

"We've got your back!" the fans shouted right back.

Harris signed with his hometown team in 2016 as a free agent.

"2016, all I had was one goal in mind was this thing right here, baby," Harris said, lifting the Grey Cup from its neck. "We got it, man, and it's not leaving for awhile."

Player Justin Medlock hoists the cup while standing on top of a truck. (Michael Fazio/CBC)

Head coach O'Shea was wearing a "very small" 1990 commemorative Grey Cup shirt, he told the rally, before insisting he wanted some new Grey Cup merchandise.

"It's your cup, Winnipeg. It's your cup!" he chanted, before fans responded with a chorus of "O'Shea! O'Shea! O'Shea!"

The crowd roared again for Matt Nichols, who was injured mid-season and helped other pivots lead his team to glory.

Watch the Grey Cup parade from a time-lapsed aerial view:

An aerial time-lapse view of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Grey Cup parade as it advances down Portage Avenue and turns south onto Main Street. 0:28

He called Streveler, his backup, his "brother for life" and ordered a second deafening cheer for Zach Collaros, a late acquisition who took over when Streveler broke his foot.

"I don't know if you realize how difficult that is," Nichols said of the speed in which Collaros learned the Bombers playbook. 

"I frickin love this city," Nichols said. 

The players had a lot of praise for Winnipeg.

Lucky Whitehead, far right, still has his jacket on as the parade float passes by the Bell MTS Place but lost it before arriving at The Forks for the celebration party. (Michael Fazio/CBC)

"I'm lit right now, you're lit right now," Streveler shouted. "This is amazing."

Defensive lineman Willie Jefferson thanked the city for taking him and his family in.

"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the CFL than right here in Winnipeg," he said. "I love y'all for the rest of my life."

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      Earlier in the celebration, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman announced an honorary renaming for Chancellor Matheson Road between University Crescent and Pembina Highway, which will be known as "Grey Cup Champions Way." The road leads to the Bombers' home stadium.

      The Bombers left the last word from the celebration to wide receiver Nic Demski, another Winnipegger. 

      Robert Jackson and his daughter smile along the parade route. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

      "I'm going to keep this short and sweet — all I've got to say is: the drought is over," he says, punctuating his claim with the drop of his microphone.

      You can watch the whole thing here: 

      The Winnipeg Blue Bombers bring the Grey Cup back to Winnipeg after a 29-year drought. 1:48:26

      The party continues Friday night with a Bombers-hosted social at the RBC Convention Centre at 7:30 p.m.

      A free family event will be held at the convention centre on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

      A fur coat-wearing, cowboy hat-donning, beer chugging Chris Streveler was one of the stars of the Blue Bombers' championship parade on Tuesday. (Michael Fazio/CBC)

      About the Author

      Ian Froese

      Reporter

      Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

      With files from Darren Bernhardt, Dana Hatherly

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