Parade watchers bundle up to enjoy 121st Victoria Day Parade

Ninety-two-year-old Joan Wicken didn’t consider leaving the 121st Island Farms Victoria Day Parade when rainwater started to pool in the purple down blanket across her legs.

“I’ve been coming for 75 years,” said Wicken, with her daughter Carol Charlebois, 60, seated beside her in camping chairs on a Douglas Street boulevard on Monday morning.

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The two had come well prepared with umbrellas.

It would take a lot to stop Wicken from attending. “Dying,” she said, would be one reason. “I enjoy it, the bands, the marching,” said Wicken. “There’s some beautiful floats.”

Wicken started coming to Victoria’s parade when it was much smaller and long before her eldest son, Evan Wicken, was born 63 years ago.

When the children arrived, it became a family tradition.

“We always brought the kids in the buggy,” said Wicken. Charlebois was brought in a basket for her first parade at just two months old.

After Wicken’s husband, Ted, died in 1993 and the kids were grown, the tradition continued as much for carrying on the memories as for the parade.

“You just can’t not stay,” said Charlebois, who was in the parade with the Mount Douglas marching band at age 17. “All these people, you have to support them.”

As for her family’s tradition: “I think it shows your children what it is to be a part of something and to support your community.”

Wicken agreed: “Even if it rains, all these people have come from all over and if one can, one should support them.”

She is also a stalwart supporter of the Christmas parade.

“She goes to it all,” Charlebois said.

While the Victoria Day Parade is broadcast live on CHEK TV, Wicken said nothing beats seeing it in person.

Because of the rain, the parade brought out a smaller crowd than sunnier parades of the past.

It featured 100 entries and 3,500 people, starting at 9 a.m. near Mayfair mall and going along Douglas Street into downtown.

Leading the way was the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy.

A light rain fell on and off, coming down heavier as the last entrant left the start line at 11:04 a.m., arriving at City Hall at 11:45 a.m. Parade organizer Kelly Kurta, executive director of the Greater Victoria Festival Society, estimated 50,000 people lined the route, half of what was expected. “Despite the weather it was a good day,” said Kurta.

Loyal parade watchers stayed put despite the rain.

A variety of music styles helped to keep spirits high. The Canadian Coast Guard Sir Wilfrid Laurier float blasted Everybody Dance Now by C+C Music Factory as it motored by, the Lower Mainland’s Screaming Eagles marching band performed Panic! at the Disco’s High Hopes, Winners Chapel International Victoria played Happy by Pharrell Williams, and the Kin Fung Athletic group made played rhythmic drums and smashed cymbals.

The Bartosik family — parents Jennie and Adam and children Ellie, 8, Coral, 6, and Josie, 4 — got front-row seats to watch the parade. Ellie didn’t get her birthday wish for a fly past as there was none this year. However, sister Coral did get to see her much-loved clowns.

Two-and-a-half year old James Mackie, wearing a firefighter hat, was at the parade for one thing: fire trucks. “I love dem,” he said. James watched the parade with siblings Ben, 10, Acacia, 5, and Levi, 9, and parents Bethany and Drew.

The parade continued down Douglas Street for more than two hours. Victoria police said there were no parade-related incidents. “Despite the weather, it was great to see so many people out watching the parade,” said Const. Matt Rutherford, in an email.

The parade, Victoria’s largest of the year, is organized by the Greater Victoria Festival Society and its volunteers. Lions Club members marshalled the parade participants.

The first annual Victoria Day Douglas Mile charity run along Douglas Street was held just prior to the parade. It was a “big hit” said Kurta, and will return next year.

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2019 Victoria Day Parade winners

Best overall entrant (not including marching bands): Dart Coon walking group, Chinese Community Alliance that won best overall entrant (not including marching bands)

Best overall marching band: Century High School, Hillsboro, Oregon

Best Canadian marching bands (ranked first to third): Reynolds Secondary School, Spectrum Community School, Greater Victoria Community Marching Band

Best U.S. marching bands: Century High School Marching Band, Oregon City High School Pioneer Scarlett Brigade, and in a third-place tie Central Kitsap Marching Cougar Band and Aberdeen High School Marching Band

Best Community Float: Metis Nation, Falune Dafa Association, Spirit of James Bay

Best Commercial Float: Galey Farms, Country Grocer, Coast Guard

Best Walking Group: Dart Coon Club - Chinese Alliance, Victoria Motorcycle Club, Korean Community Association

Best Performing Group: Victoria Motorcycle Club, Victoria Korean Association, Songhees First Nation

Best Decorated Car: Dodd's Furniture Walk For Peace, Victoria Harbour Cats, Ocean 98.5

Best Commercial Car: B.C. Transit

Best Race Cars: Old Time Racers, Just in Time Racing

Best Antique Car: Butchart Gardens

Best Canadian Drill Teams: Reynolds Secondary School

Best U.S. Drill Teams: Oregon City High School, second-place tie between Meridian High School and Kingston Middle School, and third-place for Century High School

Best Fire Truck: Victoria Fire Historical

Best Police Car: Saanich Police Department

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