Between 20-30 guests of the Clarion Lakeside Inn & Conference Centre are safe following Friday’s fire, including Winnipeg Blue Bomber John Rush, team staff and the Grey Cup.
The 26-year-old fullback and members of the football club were in Kenora as part of their Grey Cup tour, hosted by the Kenora Chief’s Advisory and earlier in the day they visited staff and students of St. Thomas Aquinas High School and Beaver Brae Secondary School and headed back to the hotel.
“It’s crazy how it happened. We actually showed up 10 minutes prior. We put our bags down and decided to grab a bite to eat upstairs. We were headed to another event shortly after that,” Rush told KenoraOnline.com.
Around 3:30 p.m. Friday afternoon, multiple calls came in to 911 reporting a fire at the hotel.
“All of a sudden we looked out the window, it’s all windows, and thought: ‘There’s some smoke coming out! We’re not sure that’s supposed to be happening,’” Rush said.
“We looked down and the smoke was billowing out. So we decided it was probably time to leave. Then the fire alarm started going off and my first reaction: ‘get the Cup!,’”
Rush headed to his room to get the Grey Cup and took the stairs down to the main level for safety.
Despite a fire and snowstorm throughout their visit, they continued the tour to the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company for a season pass holder event and then another the next day.
The Kenora Chiefs Advisory held an open meet and greet to the public at the Golden Eagle Bingo Hall on Saturday where they presented Rush and the Bomber staff with traditional gifts.
“It’s amazing being here with KCA. They’ve been such amazing hosts and the hospitality they’ve provided is great. They’ve gifted us with bead medallions and star blankets. The support here has been overwhelming,” Rush said.
“I feel terrible because we had a trailer full of merch, flags, Grey Cup shirts and hats to give away, but the truck went up in flames. We’ve been gifted and given so much here and we weren’t able to give back.”
Rush adds that there may be plans in the works to come back with merchandise to give out to the community.
“Like I said, we really appreciate the support,” Rush said, “and we want to give back to you guys for all that support.”