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Grey Cup Festival Guide

With all the entertainment highlights during the Grey Cup Festival, don’t forget the game—or games! The annual Grey Cup game crowns the Canadian Football League champion, and, for the first time in history, it’s being played on the same weekend and field as the intercollegiate Vanier Cup title game. Both battles play out at the Rogers Centre, the home field of the Toronto Argonauts. Grey Cup tickets will inevitably sell out, but you could always ask your concierge to pull some strings.

Desjardins Vanier Cup, $30 (500 level), Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Grey Cup, $44.34 to $94.34 (500 level), Sunday, 4 p.m.; two-game combo $129.14 to $613.74; call 416-872-5000.

CENTRE OF IT ALL The hub of the Grey Cup Festival (page 48) is the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC), just north of the Rogers Centre where the Grey Cup game is played. Inside, it’s a Canadian football fan’s wonderland, while two street parties flank it on the north and south sides (see “2 Free Parties”).

MEET THE PLAYERS In the afternoons, admission is free to fan areas that feature lounges playing CFL TV highlights, a billiards hall and poker tables, plus opportunities to meet and mingle with CFL players past and present. A licensed area can accommodate up to 10,000 people.

ROCK OUT At night, the MTCC transforms into a concert venue with three ultra-Canadian lineups. On Thursday, it’s retro rock with Loverboy, April Wine, Trooper and David Wilcox ($35). On Friday, the Trailer Park Boys play host to Canadian rockers Thornley and trucker-country outfit The Road Hammers ($53). And on Saturday, East-Coasters Great Big Sea and Western Canada’s Spirit of the West bring down the house along with Emerson Drive and Lowest of the Low ($53). Call 416-872-5000 for tickets.

SHOW TEAM SPIRIT The MTCC is also home to daily parties thrown by CFL team boosters. These range from the Calgary Pancake Breakfast to the Atlantic Schooners Down East Kitchen Party. Don’t miss the Argos fans’ Double Blue Bash on Saturday! Admission varies from free to $15.

GALAS GALORE A handful of big-ticket parties lift the festival beyond take-the-family range and into I-hope-the-paparazzi-get-my-good-side territory. They’re all part of the Blue Carpet Series events.

THE BEST MEN Dan Aykroyd emcees the Rogers CFL Player Awards, which includes a tribute to the late John Candy, once a co-owner of the Toronto Argonauts. Roy Thomson Hall, Thursday 7 p.m., from $174; call 416-408-GREY.

HOT PARTY In the vein of its Superbowl parties, Maxim magazine hosts a celebration at the CN Tower featuring Maxim models and host Trish Stratus. 301 Front St. W., Friday 8 p.m., $580; call 416-408-GREY.

TAILGATE TIME< .strong> The Nissan Rogue Tailgate Party runs Sunday before game time, with concerts by the Barenaked Ladies and Glass Tiger. MTCC, Sunday noon, $290; call 416-872-5000.

2 FREE PARTIES The festival is nothing if not egalitarian—it doesn’t matter a bit whether you care about football. Two free street parties put downtown in a celebratory mood from Thursday right up until game time Sunday, when they wrap up with two huge free concerts.

ROAD RAGE The adult-oriented Pepsi Front Street Festival offers a licensed beer garden from 4 to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from noon on Saturday and Sunday. Indie rock bands play at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, and before the game, Canadian alternative power-pop band Sloan kicks it up. On Front Street between York and Rees streets.

FAMILY TIME At the VIA Rail Bremner Street Festival, enjoy family-friendly events, including skills drills with current CFL players, a BMX park with how-to clinics for kids, and a Habitat for Humanity House being built by CFL personalities and volunteers. Classic Canadian party-rocker Kim Mitchell cranks up the volume pre-game. On Bremner Street between John and Simcoe streets.

If you can’t get one of the 49,808 seats for the Grey Cup, here’s where to go for a better-than-front-row view of the action.

WEGZ STADIUM BAR This is the big daddy of them all: 23,000 square feet built for watching sports on TV. You’ll need a car to get here, but it’s worth it for the game-loving atmosphere, not to mention 90 TVs, ten 10′ x 10′ screens and a mammoth 16′ x 22′ HD projection screen. No other place around comes as close to being at the game in person. The bar also boasts off-track betting (horses, not football) and a driving-range simulator. 2601 Rutherford Rd. (Hwys. 400 and 7), Vaughan, 905-303-WEGZ.

JACK ASTOR’S Head straight to the bar, which is crammed full of screens. The restaurant area has a few, too. The vibe is good-time-casual without being downscale. On top of that, you’re just two blocks from the stadium, in case you feel compelled to rush over to celebrate. 144 Front St. W., 416-585-2121.

PHILTHY MCNASTY’S Also a few blocks from the Rogers Centre, this cavernous space has more of a beer-hall atmosphere—it’s a place where your face paint won’t be out of place. A long wall with projection screens plus TVs in every direction give you plenty of places to keep an eye on the action. 276 King St. W., 416-979-8060.

SPORTS CENTRE CAFÉ Midtowners who are serious about the game gather here. A recent renovation added several dozen small flat- screens—including one in each booth—as well as projection screens. 49 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-928-9525.

HARBOUR SPORTS GRILLE Good service, tall bar tables and TVs throughout. Though not an emporium like WEGZ, it’s definitely a place that takes its sports seriously, so expect loud cheers and good times. 10 Yonge St., 416-367-4999.

TIP! For more details on any Grey Cup Festival happenings mentioned here, plus last-minute updates such as player appearances, visit the information centre at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC), 255 Front St. W., level 700.

Web exclusive! To find out what else is going on around the city while you’re here for the game, see 10 Activities for Grey Cup Week.

—Robert Maurin

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