Although the Stampeders weren’t playing in the big game, Calgary still came out to celebrate.
Dallas Kitt, typically the team’s manager of events, become the director of the 2019 Grey Cup Festival and all associated events for the five-day CFL celebration from November 20-24 of last year.
It was a daunting task that started way back in October of 2018, some 13 months prior to the Kick-off Party at Calgary’s Big Four Roadhouse.
“I think having been to other Grey Cup Festivals in other markets, it’s always neat to be able to see what other teams are doing and how they’re trying to make it their own,” explained Kitt when asked about formulating the plans for what is now her favorite memory to date while working with the Stampeders organization. “So you kind of shop around and take the things that you really like and learn from the things that maybe quite didn’t work as planned. Edmonton did such a good job the year before, but to take it one step further was always our goal.”
With Stampede Park at their disposal, Kitt was able to help design a plan to incorporate the entirety of the Festival at a single, central location, a brand-new concept when it comes to the fun-filled week leading up the Grey Cup championship.
This model was especially well-received in regards to the team parties, a long-time staple of the Grey Cup Festival.
“We were very fortunate to have Stampede Park and all of the different rooms available there to put it together under one roof,” Kitt said in a grateful tone. “Even if you were a Roughriders fan, we wanted you to go check out the Spirit of Edmonton or the Atlantic Schooner’s Kitchen Party. Every party has such a unique theme to it and it’s really neat to be able to see that and party-hop to the different teams and see their entertainment and all the things they bring. So I think that was a really big home-run.”
The inclusion of activities for all ages was also important, such as a 50,000 square-foot indoor family zone, tube slide, stratosphere projection dome, live music and outdoor turf catered to minor football participants.
“In every circumstance when we were brainstorming ideas and coming up with plans, we always tried to look at it from a fan’s perspective to make it the most enjoyable experience possible,” described Kitt. We wanted to make it easy for families to come and enjoy it.”
Although some final reporting and financial summaries are still being completed, Kitt can finally not only breathe a sigh of relief, but look back on the Grey Cup Festival with a sense of justified pride and accomplishment.
“What I really loved about the experience was that I got to be hands-on in every single aspect of the event,” Kitt outlined. “Everything from transportation to security to the entertainment and the full run-of-show to the placement of the sponsors. For events like the Rodeo, the Gala, the Cheer Extravaganza and our Kick-off Party, my favorite part was once those events actually started, I would often stand back and just watch them as a fan. Everything went as-planned and was even better than what we envisioned in our minds. I was just over the moon. It was months and months of hard work coming true.”