B.C. Lions wide receiver Geroy Simon (second from left) joins teammates Angus Reid

B.C. Lions wide receiver Geroy Simon (second from left) joins teammates Angus Reid

Grey Cup, B.C. Lions thrill Vernon fans at Wesbild Centre

The CFL's championship trophy, the Grey Cup, was brought to Vernon's Wesbild Centre Wednesday by members of the champion B.C. Lions

Acelyn Ball provided a powerful and persuasive argument on why she should get to take some time from her Grade 5 studies at Alexis Park Elementary School to see the B.C. Lions and the Grey Cup.

Ball was introduced to Lions players Geroy Simon, Angus Reid and J.R. LaRose at the Wesbild Centre Wednesday afternoon as the winner of Alexis Park’s essay contest on why students should get to see the Lions and the Grey Cup, which the trio of players brought to the public Wednesday.

“Me and my dad used to watch football all the time together, but he is so sick now we don’t watch it any more,” said Ball in her essay, read to the players and to 15 other classmates by Alexis Park principal Jennifer Gardner.

“My dad would be so proud of me if I got an autograph from a football player. We would put it in a frame and hang it over his bed. If I got to see the Cup, I would scream.”

Ball didn’t scream that loud, but she did get to hoist the cup, received autographs from the players and had her picture taken with the trio and the trophy.

“It was so cool,” said Ball after. “It was really shocking. The trophy is about medium-weight.”

Alexis Park students were the first to see the trophy and meet the players.

“I’m a big Lions fan,” smiled Reece Hawthorne, a Grade 6 student, decked out in a borrowed Angus Reid #64 jersey, and whose favourite player is receiver Arland Bruce. “It was so cool to see them win the Grey Cup at home.”

Several hundred fans waited patiently as  the Lions were a little late arriving at the Wesbild Centre, having driven up from a morning stop in Penticton as part of the team’s province-wide tour with the Grey Cup.

First in line to see their heroes were Nathan Vliet, his father Doug Vliet and Barry Smith, all of Armstrong, who arrived at the Wesbild Centre a little more than an hour before the scheduled 1 p.m. start.

“I had no doubt, even when they started 0-5, that they were going to win the Grey Cup at home,” said Nathan, decked out in a Geroy Simon #81 jersey and wearing a Lions hat. “Today, I get to meet three of the guys but it was a total team effort.”

For Smith, getting his picture taken with one of North America’s oldest sports trophies is something he can now scratch from his bucket list.

“I’m a lifelong Lions fan and this will be the first time I get to see the Grey Cup in person,” said Smith, who got his B.C. hat signed by all three players. “It’s worth standing in line, especially after the season they’ve had.”

Even though there isn’t a lot of rest for the Lions on the tour – the three players were only in Vernon for an hour before heading to Kamloops Wednesday afternoon, then on to the Cariboo Thursday – the reception they’re receiving from grateful fans is worth the travel.

“It’s good for us to let the fans know we appreciate it, and that this Cup is just as much theirs as anybody’s,” said Reid, a CFL all-star. “It’s just been a great time.”

Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster and his office hosted the one-hour stop. Foster introduced the players to the public. The players then gladly signed autographs, T-shirts and hats, and posed for pictures.