First off I owe the good people of Outlook an apology. I wasn't able to punch out a blog after our third stop on the Kraft Celebration Tour so I will combine Outlook and Fort Macleod into one massive Super Blog! Twice the fun! That's a good thing, right?
The truth is I feel especially bad because Saskatchewan holds such a special place in my heart. Both my parents were born and grew up there and I lived in Saskatoon for a year in the late nineties. It was my first sportscasting job fresh out of university and memories were flooding back when the entire "West Crew" was out on Broadway celebrating Sean Thompson's birthday, one of our star lighting technicians (aka. The guy who plays Chad Kroeger in our recurring Chad Kroeger bit).
Outlook is about an hour drive south of Saskatoon and we were escorted to and from our hotel and the Outlook site by the town's Mayor and former Toronto Maple Leaf Bob Stephenson and his son Shay, who played on the 2001 Memorial Cup Champion Red Deer Rebels. They couldn't have been more gracious hosts. But our favourite member of the Stephenson family was surely Sandy, Bob's wife and Shay's Mom who hails from Birmingham, Alabama and who made us THE meal of the trip: A beautiful picnic lunch of chicken, local potatoes, peach cobbler and so much more. It was a welcome respite from 10 days of restaurant food.
The 25-thousand dollar community refresh from Kraft will go toward some repair work on the Outlook Regional Pool. What a great facility right on the banks of the South Saskatchewan, perfect for a hot summer day like we experienced for our show. The crowd was great and some of my family was able to make it up from Regina to see the show which made it even better.
From there it was a late-night bus trip to Lethbridge, Alberta where we were staying during our fourth stop on the tour: Fort Macleod. Alberta's oldest community (founded in 1874) has a beautifully preserved main street that is a Nationally Designated Historic Site.
When we visited the town the day before our show we went to the Fort itself to watch the musical ride, inspect the horses, and dress up like Northwest Mounted Police. We even got on our own horses (Dan got Tommy, I got Old Jake, who was very gentle and perfect for someone like me who hadn't been on a horse in 30 years) Special thanks to Dawn, Randi and especially Stacy who helped us saddle up and ride right!
Dan and I also got to enjoy one of the greatest things any man can experience: The straight razor shave. Don's Barber Shop in downtown Fort Macleod is a throwback to the way things used to be: hot towel, straight razor and straight talk from Don who shaved my two-day beard. "Duffy" also gave O'Toole what he called "the greatest haircut I've ever had". It was a real treat and a pleasure to hang out with them.
Don and Duffy also made it to our live show Friday afternoon which was a huge success. The West Crew did another unbelievable job of setting up our stage, cameras, and lights right on Historic Main Street. I can't say enough about the energy of the crowd that afternoon. It made me so proud as a born-and-raised Albertan to see so many people from my home province out at our show and having a great time. Not to mention the fact the the F.P. Walsh School in Fort Macleod is well on their way to a new sports field thanks to the good people of Kraft.
And here's a nice addendum to the Alberta story:
The CFL along with partners Reebok and Wilson as well as the Edmonton Eskimos are making a donation of footballs and t-shirts for all the kids on the four football teams that play out of the Wetaskiwin Hog Barn. Wetaskiwin is the city that lost out to Fort Macleod as the Alberta stop on the tour.
We have now arrived in New Westminster, B.C for the final stop on the 2010 Edition of the Kraft Celebration Tour. We've already strapped on the pads and played football with the New Westminster High School Hyacks coached by TSN's West Coast Bureau Chief Farhan Lalji. Let's just say Dan got his bell rung. We also played some lacrosse with the New Westminster Salmonbellies. Dan played goal and, yes, once again he got his bell rung. Great guys all around, looking forward to seeing them all at Sunday's show. Don't forget to tune in to our final show at 6 ET/3 PT on TSN to check it out.
Heading to the PNE now to make a quick appearance on the CTV Vancouver 6'o'clock Newscast. Hopefully Bill Good and Pamela Martin go easy on me, I'm getting tired! This 10-day stretch is the most fun I have at my job all year, but when it's over I may need a vacation!
We really do live in the greatest country in the world.