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Town of 8,700 raises $45,000 to send their marching band to Victoria Day Parade

Monday's Victoria Day Parade starts at 9 a.m. with a route along Douglas Street.

The largest and longest-running annual parade in Victoria holds particular meaning for high school bands throughout the Pacific Northwest.

While the Victoria Day Parade always attracts thousands of participants on floats representing various local groups and businesses, it has also attracted marching bands from the United States for more than 40 years.

This year, coming from Washington state, Hoquiam High School’s marching band has been practising in the rain for months to ensure that they have enough stamina for the Douglas Street parade route, said the school’s choir and band teacher Susan Peters.

“The kids that pack the drums — those are 40 pounds a piece,” she said. “My kids love performing in parades. It’s just one of their favourite things to do.”

Hoquiam High School has about 400 students and a quarter of them are in the music program, she said.

And they love coming to Victoria. “You guys have candy here that we don’t have in the States.”

After arriving on Saturday, Hoquiam students toured Butchart Gardens, went for a swim at Saanich Commonwealth Place, and checked out an escape room in downtown Victoria.

Peters said many of her students haven’t left the county that they grew up in prior to this trip.

“We have a lot of kids that get the free and reduced lunch [program]. It’s a high poverty area,” she said, adding that some have never dined in at a restaurant prior to this weekend.

Her students are learning important life skills, she said. “We’re teaching them how to fill out the forms on the ferry … how to load and unload, to work as a team, how to treat waitstaff.”

Residents of Hoquiam, Washington, a community of 8,700 southwest of Seattle, came together to raise the $45,000 needed to send the marching band to Victoria.

University of Washington athletic band director Brad McDavid credits the tradition of small-town Washington state bands playing in the Victoria Day Parade to Ken Noreen, a former music director of Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, Washington, just north of Seattle. “He was one of the people who played a huge role in the establishment of this high school presentation,” said McDavid.

McDavid is bringing a 40-person drumline and about half a dozen dancers from the university’s Husky Marching Band to Victoria for the last time as he will soon retire after 30 years with the University of Washington.

“I’ve gotten to know most of the high school directors in the state, so it’s always a lot of fun to see them and hear their bands,” he said. “It’s a special experience and something that we look forward to with great anticipation every year.”

McDavid said the May long weekend is always a good time to recruit from Washington state high schools.

“We tell the [university] ­students that they have to be on their best recruiting face,” ­McDavid said. “This is a wonderful ­opportunity for them to show off in front of a lot of impressionable high school students,” he joked.

This year, the Husky Marching Band, who came over on the Coho ferry on Saturday afternoon, will have a tight schedule as they are performing at the Highland Games Saturday as well as on the legislature lawn today, McDavid said.

“We catch the last ferry of the night and get the kids back to campus about midnight.”

It’s unfortunate that University of Washington students have never been in the Victoria Day Parade due to the need to attend end-of-term classes, he said.

Parade organizer and Greater Victoria Festival Society executive director Kelly Kurta said this year’s parade will feature about 10 bands from the U.S., more than double the number last year.

Many bands are still rebuilding from setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. Monday’s parade will feature a local band, from Reynolds Secondary School.

Overall parade entries are remaining steady from last year at 85, Kurta said.

The parade’s 3,286 registered participants are expected to take up a combined 1,000 hotel room nights over the May long weekend, she said.

The event brings in an estimated $7 million in tourism dollars, she said.

Festivities at the legislature grounds began Saturday with free music events from 10:30 a.m to 6 p.m.

On Sunday, it will be a day of bands on the legislature grounds, starting with the Hoquiam Jazz Band at 10:30 a.m. The final performance starts at 4 p.m. with an hourlong show featuring a U.S. Marine Corps band from San Diego, the Naden Band and the Canadian Scottish Pipe and Drum Band.

On Monday, the Victoria Day Parade will run on Douglas Street from Tolmie Avenue to Belleville Street, beginning at 9 a.m.

Douglas Street as well as streets one block out will be closed during the parade, with roads reopening as the parade moves through.

Buses will detour along Blanshard Street during the parade.

Following the parade, festivities will continue at Centennial Square at Gordy Dodd’s One World Multicultural Festival with live entertainment and bouncy castles.

Performances and displays of culture from local groups with ties to countries such as Ukraine, Peru, Nepal and Korea will go from 11 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

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> Monday’s parade will be broadcast live on CHEK TV starting at 9 a.m.

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