Spirit of Edmonton breakfast still a big part of Grey Cup weekend after four decades

A breakfast started by Edmonton Eskimo fans more than 40 years ago, will return to the city as an essential event of Grey Cup weekend.

Close to 4,000 people are expected to attend the Spirit of Edmonton breakfast on Nov. 23 and 24 at the Shaw Conference Centre. As the first quickly sold out, volunteers added a second.

"It was the first sold-out event for the Grey Cup this year," said Keith Keating, former chair of the Spirit of Edmonton. "In lots of city's it's a harder ticket to get than a ticket to the game.

"It's totally a party. The food is secondary for many people."

The breakfast is run by fans of the Edmonton Eskimos, but is open to all CFL fans.

Attendees are entertained by cheer teams and live music as they enjoy the event's signature drink: sluice juice.

Organizers won't reveal the ingredients, saying only they use a 500-gallon tank and pump system to serve it.

The breakfast is a part of Spirit of Edmonton party that runs from Nov. 22 to 24 at the Westin Hotel. The annual party is hosted by over a hundred volunteers in every city where the Grey Cup is played.

First breakfast in 1975

Former Edmonton Eskimos president Rick LeLacheur, now B.C. Lions president, was involved in the first Spirit of Edmonton breakfast held in Calgary in 1975 when the Stampeders hosted the Eskimos.

"It was to really get the Eskimo fans going and pumped up to get ready for the game," LeLacheur said.

LeLacheur expected to sell a few hundred tickets, but sold close to 1,300.

"Back in those days you couldn't get a liquor permit on a Sunday so we had all the radio and TV stations in Edmonton promote it as BYOB."

Spirit of Edmonton

He calls the breakfast a marquee event of Grey Cup weekend, and he's happy to see it continue.

"Everybody knows about the Spirit of Edmonton room and the Spirit of Edmonton breakfast," LeLacheur said. "It's been around the longest of any of the the teams having events at the Grey Cup."

Edmonton last hosted the Grey Cup in 2010. This year's game starts at 4 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 25.

Travis.mcewan@cbc.ca

@Travismcewancbc