HUMBOLDT – Roughly 2,500 members of the community of Humboldt and surrounding area showed up to Glenn Hall Park on Sunday to watch the Saskatchewan Roughriders practice.
The attendance count is a wild estimate, given the fact the event was free-to-attend and featured a community barbecue afterwards where fans got to meet the team.
“It looks like half the town is here,” mused one Humboldt resident, whose community is home to just under 6,000 people.
For the Riders, the workout was secondary. They visited Humboldt to show their support for the grief-stricken community, which is still reeling from the April 6 Humboldt Broncos tragedy.
“It’s such a humbling thing,” said Broncos President Kevin Garinger. “To know that you’ve got an organization like the Saskatchewan Roughriders who are standing behind you and supporting you, reaching out to help you help others through this unimaginable tragedy.”
In the days leading up to the practice in Humboldt, Rider quarterback Zach Collaros said the team was simply hoping to put smiles on peoples’ faces as they deal with their pain.
Veteran Rider guard Brendon Labatte – a Weyburn, SK product – felt his team was able to do that on Sunday.
“It’s great to be able to come out and show our support for this community,” Labatte said. “It’s extremely tragic what happened, but just by showing up here today we were able to make a lot of people smile.
“That’s the biggest thing we can do; is just to come here and if our presence is able to bring that to people, that’s the absolute least we can do.”
Meanwhile the Roughriders announced plans for their June 30th home game versus the Montreal Alouettes. The gameday will be themed ‘Humboldt Strong’ in support of the Humboldt Broncos, the community of Humboldt and all those affected by the tragic accident that occurred April 6th.
“Roughriders home games have long been a place where the people of our province can rally together,” stated Craig Reynolds, Saskatchewan Roughriders President & CEO. “Dedicating a gameday to Humboldt Strong is an opportunity to give the people affected by the tragedy a chance to gather as they continue to heal. It also allows our Club and all of Rider Nation a chance to show their ongoing support.”
“We are so grateful for the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ ongoing support and partnership as the Humboldt Broncos continue to navigate this tragedy, and as we begin to move forward and rebuild,” said Kevin Garinger, President of the Humboldt Broncos. “The Rider game on June 30th will provide our families with yet another precious opportunity to further their healing process by coming together – to remember, to celebrate and to be buoyed by the love and support of Rider Nation.”
Working in conjunction with the Broncos organization, the Roughriders have invited the families of the 29 occupants of the bus, the first responders who provided care and comfort and Humboldt community leaders to attend the June 30th CFL contest. In all, the Riders expect to host approximately 250 guests at Mosaic Stadium.
Pre-game activities will include a video dedication to the Humboldt Broncos and the community of Humboldt, as well as on-field participation by Broncos representatives in the anthem and coin toss ceremonies.
Canadian country music group, Hunter Brothers will sing the national anthem and will provide halftime entertainment with a three-song set. Originally from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, Hunter Brothers comprise siblings Luke, J.J., Ty, Brock and Dusty Hunter.
Rider fans can show their support and help raise funds by purchasing a commemorative Humboldt Strong pin. The pin is now available at all Rider Store locations, with 100 per cent of all proceeds going to the Humboldt Strong Community Fund.
(With files from Roughriders PR)