Friday, September 12, 2008

Once a Cheerleader, Always a Cheerleader 

Posted by James at 3:03 PM ET

Barrie woman to take part in tonight's Argos retro game

By Ian Shantz
The Barrie Examiner
Argos LogoArmed with a set of pompoms, a pair of leather chaps and a bright red cowboy hat, Cynthia Arrigo is ready to rekindle a passion she thought she laid to rest more than 20 years ago.

Tonight, the Barrie resident will take to the football field as a cheerleader. A Toronto Argonauts cheerleader. A 48-year-old Toronto Argonauts cheerleader.

"I'm a little nervous," the mother of two daughters said yesterday. "But I'm excited. I think we all are."

Arrigo is one of 49 former Toronto Argonauts cheerleaders performing a number at Rogers Centre at halftime as part of the Canadian Football League squad's Retro Game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

If the club turned back the clock earlier this week with the hiring of Don Matthews as head coach, it turned the switch on a super-powered time machine when it invited cheerleaders -- some of whom are now grandmothers -- to take the field once again.

The opportunity, held to mark the 30th anniversary for the Argos' cheerleaders, is a thrill for Arrigo just the same.

"What's exciting about this is I've been reacquainted with the girls I was a cheerleader with 20 years ago," the former Toronto resident said. "To go back, we've all changed now. Everyone's a mother or a grandmother. Just to see every one again, it's special."

Arrigo waved the pompoms in support of the Boatmen from 1984-87. She was 23 years old at the time, so naturally, going in front of thousands of boisterous football fans for a four-and-a- half minute performance 20-plus years after the fact is something she's both nervous and excited about.

But following months of preparation, including rehearsals in an east-end Toronto warehouse, Arrigo says she and her fellow cheerleaders are ready for primetime. Despite the age factor, they won't be holding back when they perform their cowgirl routine to Jessica Simpson's rendition of Nancy Sinatra's hit These Boots Are Made For Walkin'.

"We have a couple of tumblers, actually. They're mothers, and they can still do it, so why not?," Arrigo said. "We've been working with the same choreographer (Linda Googh) that I had when I was a cheerleader. She made us look good."

Arrigo first joined the squad for simple reasons. She has always loved to dance, and she'd "always had a little dream of being a SUNshine girl. She was able to do both as a cheerleader, posing in the famed back page of the Toronto Sun -- Page. 2 at the time -- in July 1984.

Although Arrigo hasn't kept in touch with many of her former teammates, she maintains friendships with a few of the ladies who will also be taking part in tonight's celebration.

And it's through cheerleading that Arrigo said she learned about setting personal goals. She didn't make the Argos' cheerleading squad the first two years she tried out, but didn't give up on her pursuit and it paid off the following year when she made the team as a substitute, and then worked her way onto the starting lineup.

"I think the whole experience showed me if you want something, you can do it. If you really want something bad enough, you go for it and you get it," said Arrigo, her blue eyes sparkling as bright as they do in the dozens of photos and newspaper clippings she keeps. "And for this experience (tonight's event), I think it's done something for my own self esteem. It was an incentive for me to get in shape and lose a few pounds, which I did."

What makes tonight extra special for Arrigo is that she'll have two of her biggest supporters on hand. Her daughters, 16-year-old Stephanie, and 13-year-old Melanie, both competitive dancers, are skipping dance class for a bird's-eye view of mom strutting her stuff.

"I travel all over the place to watch them perform, so this is exciting because now they're watching mom. They're in the audience. They're actually there watching mom, and I think that's special," said Arrigo, adding her parents, Anthony and Francesca, will also be at Rogers Centre.

"My parents watched every football game I was ever in."

At 4-6, the struggling Argos could probably use a boost these days. Perhaps, a little retro magic could do the trick?

"Wouldn't that be nice? If we win (tonight), maybe we should (take over)."

[Toronto Argos Cheerleaders]

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