It’s A Parade!

“The parade was a brilliant spectacle, superior in all its details to anything of the kind ever seen here.”

Vancouver World, September 1900.

Plaque

From Vancouver’s earliest years, Hastings Street has been the venue for thousands of people to come downtown and watch the elaborate processions and spectacle of the parade. Vancouverites young and old have gathered for hours to catch a glimpse of the decorated floats, wagons, vehicles, marching bands, and performers of the Grey Cup Championship parades and the annual Labour Day and P.N.E. parades. Vancouver has welcomed kings, queens, emperors and presidents. Whether it was for the opening of a new baseball stadium, to see cowboys, circus elephants or the Governor General, Hastings Street has been at the centre of it all.

“The parade was a brilliant spectacle, superior in all its details to anything of the kind ever seen here.”

Vancouver World, September 1900.

Sponsored by Hastings West.

History

From Vancouver’s earliest years, parades have marked major events and Vancouverites young and old have come out in droves to catch a glimpse of the decorated floats, wagons, vehicles, marching bands, military and fire brigades, and the occasional exotic animal. Here’s a look at some of the most significant parades in Vancouver’s history.

Labour Day Parade
Labour Day parades flourished until the turn of the twentieth century. “They expressed the class identity of Vancouver’s working people, and were a direct outgrowth of the emergence of a city-wide labour council in 1889,” writes historian Robert McDonald.  “The parade of 1899, described as the largest in the province to that date, featured six floats on which craftsmen presented working demonstrations of their skill.”

Dominion Day Parades
In contrast, early Dominion Day parades featured leading citizens and emphasized ties to the Empire, writes McDonald. The Vancouver Sun reported on the 1925 parade, which drew an estimated 30,000 visitors to the city. The parade had 281 entries and 2,000 participants, including 18 bands:

“With a pep and a grace that registered a glad surprise on the hearts of her residents and international visitors, Vancouver rose to the occasion of Dominion Day yesterday and flung herself into the holiday festivities with whole-hearted enthusiasm… Vancouver residents realised that the old zip and zest for community merrymaking had returned to their city, after several years of only half-hearted interest in public festivities, and they turned to with eager good will to support her in all she undertook… On the float were men and women representing Jack Canuck, Miss Canada, Miss B.C., and all the provinces. In front was a symbol representing a fire, with the spreading flames of national spirit. Then there was a pole with the Canadian ensign at the top and below a figure holding a blank flag representing a flag in the making… Waving Canadian flags and seated in the big ship S.S. Canada, two score Canadian-born Japanese children in jack tar suits proclaimed their loyalty to the land of their birth… The parade, which they staged was, for a city the size of Vancouver, a marvel to the dozens of American and other visitors with whom I have spoken today. It was a wonderful show…Today has been like ‘the good old days’ of 25 years ago when Vancouver as one man would rise to the support of a community effort.”

PNE Parade
For six decades, the PNE parade, which ran from 1935-1995, was one of the biggest events in town. Mac Reyonds, a journalist for the Vancouver Sun described the PNE’s 1955 parade in which a record-breaking 250,000 people attended:

“Under a pale sun that strained through the clouds for attention, the record crowd lined the four and-a-half-mile parade route 12 deep, jammed curbs and climbed ladders and balanced on neon signs… There was a freshness to the parade as well as color and bigness and noise and floats and bands and marchers and clowns. There were flower peacocks, little boys in Indian turbans, mobile rock gardens, Calypso singers beating on oil drums, pastel colored toy trains, glockenspiels, Great Danes, silver helmets and saxophones.”

Pride Parade
The biggest parade in Vancouver today is the Gay Pride Parade – the largest of its kind in Western Canada. In 2016, the event attracted over 650,000 people, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The first pride parade took place in 1978, when participants marched on the sidewalk from the Nelson Park festival site down Thurlow Street to Sunset Beach Park (see Davie Street Village).

Sources

  • Robert McDonald. Making Vancouver: Class, status, and social boundaries, 1863-1913. UBC Press, 1996.
  • Lisa Smedman. “Dominion Day parade of 1925 an affair to remember.” Vancouver Courier. May 8, 2009.
  • John Mackie. “This day in history: August 23, 1955.” Vancouver Sun. Aug 23, 2013.

Media & Photos

Address

802 W. Hastings
SW corner of Howe St and W Hastings St

Coordinates

49.285962492132676, -123.1152333300247

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