Clowns, beeping horns, dancers, mascots, marching bands. Monday marks the return of the annual Island Farms Victoria Day Parade.
And for the first time, the public will see seven larger-than-life performers – stilt-walkers, acrobats and enormous puppets – whose costumes were specially made for Victoria’s 150th anniversary as an incorporated municipality.
The characters, courtesy of the History 2 Life Performance Troupe, include a Cadborosaurus, the spirit of Chinatown, a giant First Nations-inspired eagle, Amor de Cosmos, a Big News character, Emily Carr’s monkey Woo and a bicycle-riding flower dancer, representing the City of Gardens.
“It’s an opportunity for us to bring the idea of history to life, literally … and just to give people a real visual and very fun kind of interaction with some of the icons of the city’s history,” said Alice Bacon, Victoria’s 150th anniversary co-ordinator.
“We wanted to really capture the whole essence of the community, both historically and culturally, and in a way that’s fun.”
To further mark the milestone year, Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin will lead the 114th consecutive parade, until he is dropped off at Municipal Hall to join the parade judges.
Fortin will ride with Esquimalt Nation Chief Andy Thomas.
Just as it does every year around this time, parade organizer Ron Butlin’s phone has been ringing off the hook for the past three weeks.
But those calling to secure a last-minute spot in the parade lineup are out of luck.
As he has for a number of years, Butlin, who chairs the Greater Victoria Festival Society, capped the number of parade entries at 142. Another 25 applicants must wait until next year’s event.
“I don’t like turning people away,” he said, but any more than that has proven to be too much in past years.
“It gets too long out there with the families.”
Parade highlights include 16 U.S. bands, coming from as far away as California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
There will also be musical talent from closer to home. Reynolds Secondary School, Spectrum Community School and Burnaby North Secondary are entering marching bands.
For the first time, the City of Kelowna has entered – in recognition of Victoria’s anniversary – and a $500 prize will be awarded to the parade entry with the best period costumes.
Esquimalt’s float has been tricked out for the event in honour of the township’s centennial. The entry will feature a special 100th anniversary sign and a strobe light, and Esquimalt’s centennial theme song “Esquimalt Shines” will be played.
Parade marshalling gets underway at 8 a.m. in the parking lot of the Mayfair Shopping Centre. The parade begins heading down Douglas Street at 9 a.m. and ends behind the Fairmont Empress.
Spectators are encouraged to walk, cycle or take transit to reach their parade vantage point. Families driving downtown are encouraged to park away from Douglas Street to avoid the northbound rush of traffic after the parade.
VICTORIA DAY WEEKEND LINEUP:
Sunday, May 20: Soak up the musical talents of several U.S. marching bands for free on the legislature grounds, from 2 to 4 p.m.
Monday, May 21: Coinciding with the Island Farms Victoria Day Parade, a 150th anniversary display happens in Centennial Square from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Taste the new Victoria Tribute Blend of tea that was developed for the city’s anniversary year, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
2012 Parade by the numbers:
American bands in the parade: 16
Parade judges: 12
Parade prize categories: 10
Parade entries this year: 142
Parade entries in 2011: 143
Spectators expected: 70,000 to 75,000
Consecutive years the parade has been held: 114