Takin’ it to the street

Gerry Phelan
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Everyone loves a parade, which makes me wonder why there aren’t more of them.

Santa comes once a year, and we have military marches on Memorial Day and Remembrance Day. But for the life of me, I don’t know why we don’t mark other occasions in a similar way.

There is something special about parades, no matter how old you are. I remember as a kid making a trip to the Army and Navy surplus store to buy a sailor suit and cap after seeing  Navy men march in a Battle of the Atlantic parade.

They looked so proud and distinguished.

This year, watching the cadets, uniformed services, members of the military and veterans parade down Duckworth Street made me think about those days, and the little salute many of us would give as kids, clicking our heels to attention as if we were one of those walking so tall and in line.

The closest I got to participating were the march drills we did at St. Pat’s for the annual sports day. We always tried to be better than

St. Bon’s. During my childhood, the baton-waving Church Lads Brigade bandleader sporting a fur hat and the leopard skin on the bass drum player always captured my attention when they marched down Harvey Road. These days, there could be parades of all kinds, which might boost tourism as well as be local celebrations.

Take St. Patrick’s Day. Years ago as a news editor, I recall seeing a news release from the Benevolent Irish Society announcing that there would be a parade on St. Patrick’s Day from the BIS to the Basilica. If I was new in town, that might have prompted excitement. Knowing the proximity of the two locations — literally across the street from each other — made it a little less significant.

Today, the BIS club room is even less of a climb, just up the street. They make a lot of St. Paddy’s Day, and given my own streak of Irish blood, I’m all for it. Still, despite the thousands of townies who claim that heritage, Paddy’s Day is celebrated in the bars with green beer and at the church with a special mass, but we’d have to travel to Toronto or New York or Boston to find a parade.

What about Labour Day? Grand Falls-Windsor has a long tradition of Labour Day parades, and I believe there have been marches in Corner Brook and St. John’s. Today, there is a community celebration in the capital city, but no parade. Surely, with so many union brass in this town, someone could put together something and give us another opportunity to salute the workforce.

Years ago, we used to celebrate sports victories and other significant accomplishments with parades.

When 3Cheers Pub won the Canadian Senior Men’s Softball Championship, they got the glory, and the trophy, but a parade? Nope. In fact, we would have thought it strange if they had received one. It just doesn’t happen anymore, or if it does, we don’t hear much about it.

We do have the annual Pride parade, an event which thankfully doesn’t draw the kind of criticism it used to. Congratulations to the organizers for making this event the celebration it has become.

A few months ago there was a parade of zombies, and more recently there was a mummers parade as well as Santa Claus parades. Just about every community has one of the latter, with Santa working his magic to get from one float to another, sometimes on the same day. The reindeer must be run ragged.

I have a vague memory of an Easter parade in St. John’s some years ago, but maybe that was only wishful thinking. Do you remember one?

Maybe what makes parades special is that there are so few of them. Still, I’m in favour of improving the ones we have and encouraging similar events for other occasions.

You see a lot of smiling faces at parades, and we can all use more of that.  

Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster. He can be reached

at gerryp@bellaliant.net

Organizations: Benevolent Irish Society, Canadian Senior Men

Geographic location: Duckworth Street, Harvey Road, Toronto New York Boston Corner Brook

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