Humboldt was a sea of green Sunday as hundreds of people enjoyed a special visit from the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Riders held a practice, followed by autograph signings and a community barbeque, in the community as a show of support following the Humboldt Broncos bus crash on April 6.
Sixteen people died and 13 others were injured when the bus carrying the junior hockey team to a playoff game in Nipawin and a semi-trailer collided.
The Riders were greeted with applause and cheering from the large crowd Sunday, where it quickly became evident the support was mutual.
Fans of all ages lined up along the field in the sun wearing Rider jerseys and Broncos hats.
People smiled as they swarmed the field for autographs, with large groups forming around quarterbacks Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge.
Fans also gathered around Broncos crash survivor Kaleb Dahlgren, who added his signature to jerseys.
“They understand what we went through, and to have them come here and talk to us and meet us, it means a lot,” Dahlgren told 650 CKOM.
“Their support has been phenomenal and I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Broncos president Kevin Garinger spoke with media at the event, saying the Riders support reinforces the community is not alone.
“We realize that people are with us, they’re here to support us,” he said.
“Knowing that those people are there for us has just allowed the healing process … to happen more quickly.”
Rider receiver Naaman Roosevelt tweeted, “This touched my soul today. I had an awesome time in this great community of Humboldt.”
Humboldt Strong at Mosaic Stadium
The CFL team also announced details Sunday for a “Humboldt Strong” home game on June 30.
“The club is a uniting force,” said Craig Reynolds, Saskatchewan Roughriders president and CEO.
“People rally around the football team, and we really want them to rally around the community of Humboldt on the 30th.”
Working with the Broncos, the Riders have invited the families of the 29 people onboard the bus, the first responders who provided care that day and Humboldt community leaders to attend the game against the Montreal Alouettes.
The Riders expect to host around 250 guests at Mosaic Stadium.
Regina-born offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte said the team would have some extra fire in their hearts when they hit the field for the Humboldt Strong game.
“That’s huge to be able to go out and play for people who are hurting so bad,” he said.
Canadian country music group Hunter Brothers will sing the national anthem and provide halftime entertainment with a three-song set.
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 650 CKOM’s Keenan Sorokan and Chris Vandenbreekel.