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Tens of thousands line Douglas St. for Victoria Day Parade

Marching bands, a town crier, a $1 million car, a wide variety of cultural groups, including newcomers from Ukraine carrying a thank you banner.

The 123rd Thrifty Foods ­Victoria Day Parade on Monday provided the perfect opportunity for the Ukrainian community to recognize the outpouring of local support for those who have fled their homes in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

With big smiles, waving and blowing kisses, a group including Ukrainian newcomers and those hosting them, marched with a banner that read: “Thank you Greater Victoria.”

Valeria Schumik, her ­husband Greg and daughter Zlata, 7, fled to Victoria in December from Kherson, Ukraine, which was occupied by Russian forces from March to November 2022.

“We are really newcomers and we are here today to say a big, big thank you to Victoria and to all Canadian people for their support to help us to have a new home,” she said.

The couple, who came to Canada thanks to a host family and work by Help Ukraine Vancouver Island, are already employed in Victoria and have an apartment.

While they greatly miss their family and home in Ukraine, “right now we are in a safe place together so that is the main thing.”

The parade showcased colourful dancers, marching bands, fast cars (driven slowly), big engines and lots of pride in community, Canada and its many cultures.

Later, the Veselka Ukrainian Dance Association were part of Gordy Dodd’s “One World Celebration 2023,” including entertainment and food trucks from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Centennial Square. Many children from newcomer families have joined the dance association as dancers.

Andriy Fabrikov said the Ukrainian Canadian Cultural Society of Vancouver Island and the dancers want to thank Greater Victoria, Vancouver Island and all of Canada for support that has helped many families find employment, accommodation and to move on as much as they can while many family members are still in Ukraine and still under siege.

Sidney town crier Kenny ­Podmore led the Victoria Day Parade along Douglas Street, starting from Mayfair shopping centre, minutes after a flypast featuring a helicopter from 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron just before 9 a.m. Military and First Nations entries followed Podmore as well as parade veteran Green Party leader Elizabeth May. Following them were a large contingent of floats, cultural groups, businesses and 30 to 40 vehicles representing the Luxury Car Association of North America.

The 85 entries, up from 65 in 2022, thrilled kids of all ages with motocross bikes performing stunts within inches of the crowd, a $1-million-plus McLaren sports car revving its engine to squeals of delight from race-car fans, and Ukrainian dancers and Falun Dafa dancers sharing messages of peace.

Island high school bands from Reynolds and Spectrum joined by MEI, a school in Abbotsford, interspersed with American school bands were a must-see for many of the tens of thousands lining the parade route. A total of 14 marching bands took part.

Five-year-old Kiara was at the parade with dad Heera Singh and big brother Ayushman, 11, to see the police officers and was delighted to meet Victoria Police Chief Del Manak. The elementary school student is already dreaming of being a police officer to stop “bad guys” in their tracks and keep her community safe.

Her father, who came to Canada in 2013 from Delhi, India, has been bringing his kids to the parade for years. He most enjoys the sense of community at the parade and the joy it brings.

Robert Fast, who was working with GoTraffic Management, had to stop for a moment to marvel at the Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari and mostly the McLaren 765LT. The luxury cars were part of an effort to raise money for ­Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“They range from $300,000 to $1 million,” said Fast. “You don’t get to see cars like this every day so it’s a real treat, it’s pretty cool.”

Andrea Nicole, who came down from Duncan with a friend and her dad to watch the parade, was equally thrilled to see the fast cars. Nicole is planning on being a lawyer or a nurse and figures she’ll need to do some investing as a “side hustle” to afford a similar car in the future.

“There’s something about cars that completely excites me. They are so much fun, hearing their engines rev, it just makes me smile,” said Nicole. “Overall, what I really enjoy most is seeing different cultures coming together and celebrating. It’s nice that everyone comes out to support the parade.”

A light rain persisted for about half of the parade but was over before the final floats left Finlayson and Douglas streets, with a Thrifty Foods’ giant shopping cart filled with balloons, closing the show from the start line at 10:42 a.m.

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