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Cherished traditions on display at Victoria Day Parade attended by 80,000

124th Victoria Day Parade featured 85 entries and took about 130 minutes to go by

Will Arnold reckons he’s among the most experienced participants at the annual Victoria Day Parade, having started at the age of 13.

Arnold, who was working at the Russ Hay’s bicycle shop at the time, recalls the owner asking if he wanted to be in the parade.

After saying yes, the owner brought out a penny farthing, he said. “He threw it to me … I just jumped on it and I have been hooked ever since.”

Arnold, who now runs Experience Cycling, a bike shop in Duncan, is part of the Victoria Day Parade’s long-running penny farthing contingent.

The late Jack Leonard rode his penny farthing more than 50 times in the parade, Arnold said.

But on Monday, Arnold got to see the parade from a whole new perspective after his penny farthing — one of 12 in his collection — got a flat.

“It’s the first time in 46 years that I’m walking it,” he said while wheeling his bike along Douglas Street.

An estimated 80,000 people turned out to watch the 124th Thrifty Foods Victoria Day Parade on Monday, which featured 3,286 registered participants travelling along Douglas Street from Tolmie Avenue to Courtney Street.

Parade watchers with camping chairs started lining sidewalks along the route well before the 9 a.m. start of the 130-minute parade.

The number of U.S. marching bands participating in the parade is beginning to bounce back after the pandemic disruption.

The 40-year-old tradition of the bands coming here is a special occasion for high school students from Washington state.

Some are even second-generation Victoria Day Parade families. Mardi Emard-Colburn, who is from Aberdeen, Washington, a town of 17,000, once played flute in the Victoria Day Parade. Thirty years later, her daughter plays bass drum for Aberdeen High and was in the parade.

The band has a tradition of announcing their next drum major at a spot in Beacon Hill Park overlooking Washington state, whenever they come for the parade, she said.

The school’s marching band director Dan Patterson said Aberdeen has been participating in the parade for 36 years. It’s always a great time, he said.

“Your city is much bigger, the people are so polite, and it’s clean.

“Weather’s almost perfect, and the kids get to see all these different cultures and experiences.”

The parade’s largest contingent this year was one representing the Philippines.

Dominga Passmore, president of Bayanihan Cultural and Housing Society, said four Filipino Canadian organizations in Victoria came together to create the 220-strong delegation representing three Filipino festivals from the islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Another large group, of about 100, brought the colours and dances of Peru.

Teg Khadka said his group was in the parade to represent the 450 Nepalese Canadian families that live on Vancouver Island.

“It’s a great opportunity to showcase our culture to the community.”

The Nepalese Lākhey dance, performed by a member of the Nepalese Society of Vancouver Island, was among the many cultural performances at Gordy Dodd’s One World Multicultural Festival held in Centennial Square following the parade.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s Naden Band led the parade this year.

The pirate ship Morgana, another parade mainstay, was among of parade’s 85 entries.

Co-owner Mark Miller said the ship was absent from Esquimalt’s Buccaneer Days this year due to scheduling priorities.

“Even pirates have mothers, and my 91-year-old Cape Breton mother said we were going on a cruise,” he said.

“I had no choice but to miss that but we’re here for this one.”

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