When Ken Kelly perches 23 metres atop the Victoria Fire Department’s aerial ladder today (July 1) and looks down at the B.C Legislature lawn, he hopes to see history in the making: 2,500 people wearing red or white t-shirts while they form a human Canada flag.
“We’re trying to fill one-third (the equivalent) of the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in one hour,” said Kelly, general manager of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. “It can be done, no problem.”
The pressure is on to create an even bigger flag than last year after the City of Winnipeg recently challenged its residents to create their own flag and beat Victoria.
“This is hilarious,” Kelly said of the friendly challenge.
Victoria is believed to be the only Canadian city that creates a human Canada flag on July 1, which it has done since 2006 when 300 people showed up.
Since then a few come back each year to participate, and the event has grown. The goal was to have 2,010 people participate last year in honour of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
“It’s become a bit of a tradition,” Kelly said. “They are a part of something monumental.”
Wayne Carlow and his wife Johanna have been participating and volunteering since the flag’s inception.
“It’s to show our patriotism,” Wayne said of the flag. “We don’t do that enough.”
The challenge for him and more than a dozen volunteers is in handing out thousands of red and white T-shirts to people and keeping them in their designated groups before they are brought together.
“It’s a little bit like herding cats, but it all works out in the end. Everybody’s got a smile on their face,” said Wayne, who always stands on the outside edge of the flag so he can pick himself out in the photo Kelly takes at 2 p.m.
“You get lost in the crowd if you get too far in,” Wayne said, adding for that reason many participants ask to stand at the bottom of the maple leaf’s stem.
Over the course of an hour, Kelly watches from high above as the flag finally takes shape.
That in itself is a “magical” moment, he said. Beating Winnipeg will be icing on the Canada Day cake.
“We’ll slay them,” Kelly said with a chuckle.
Did you know?
• Canada’s national flag was inaugurated on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 15, 1965, replacing the Canada Red Ensign.
• A search for a new flag began in 1925; more than 2,600 designs were submitted in 1946.
• Red and white have been Canada’s official colours since King George V adopted them in 1921.
• Canadian Olympic athletes have been wearing a single red maple leaf emblem to the Games since 1904 – long before the symbol was replicated on the nation’s flag.
•The flag is twice as long as it is wide.