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Banff cancels Canada Day parade, opts for all-day entertainment

“The full-day opportunity allows us to collaborate with the Town of Canmore and attracting performers for both towns,” said Jason Darrah, the director of communications and marketing for the Town of Banff.
Canmore Canada Day Parade
Parade-goers have a running squirt gun battle with the Canmore Fire Department during the end of the Canada Day Parade in Canmore in 2018. RMO file photo

BANFF – The tourist town’s Canada Day parade has been cancelled this year in favour of performances and entertainment throughout the day along the Banff Avenue pedestrian zone and other areas of downtown.

Town of Banff officials say the parade is not being put on for a number of reasons, including COVID-19 safety and staff shortages, but noted all previous parade floats and performers have been invited to participate in the July 1 all-day celebrations.

“The full-day opportunity allows us to collaborate with the Town of Canmore and attracting performers for both towns,” said Jason Darrah, the director of communications and marketing for the Town of Banff.

“Because we have had the parade at the same time, we could not share performers in the past. But this year, for example, Banff will have five marching band performances, with some, such as the Round Up and Stetson bands performing as one big super band participating in both.”

In neighbouring Canmore, the community will be jam-packed with activities following a two-year hiatus.

The day’s celebrations include the return of the Canada Day parade, pancake breakfast, live music at the Stan Rogers Stage, with the day ending with fireworks. Parade float registration is open until June 17.

In Banff, the day’s activities include colour guards, bicycle parade, live music, dancing, drumming and storytelling, cultural performances from around the world, Banff and Indigenous Peoples history, heritage and performances followed by a pyrotechnics display at 10:30 p.m.

The main locations for Canada Day activities include the downtown pedestrian zone, Bear Street, Whyte Museum grounds beside Bow Avenue and the Banff Community High School field on Banff Avenue.

Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno said her favourite day of the year was always Canada Day in Banff when she was a kid.

She said she loved taking part in the activities with her family as well as the festive feeling in town, with the parade as the cornerstone of the day. Then pre-pandemic, she said she enjoyed helping to organize and walk in Banff Pride’s float with her friends.

“So I absolutely understand the disappointment some folks are experiencing because there won’t be a traditional parade this year,” she said.

“That being said, I’m excited and curious to see what the celebrations can look like on our people-focussed downtown streets.”

Darrah said activities and performances at multiple locations distributed throughout the day will also help distribute the thousands of people who come to Banff for Canada Day activities.

The Town of Banff also heard of staffing shortage concerns associated with a parade.

“We also had comments from several previous parade float participants that they were having trouble getting enough staff to participate, while also providing their services, based on staff shortages in Banff,” said Darrah.

In addition, vehicle barrier planters at either end of the pedestrian zone, temporary bus platforms, and planters throughout the pedestrian zone narrow the space available to one lane, down from two lanes and loading bays.

Darrah said one lane available presents challenges for floats and performers because, in Banff, the parades in more recent times have had barriers set up to keep the thousands of people, including children, safe when vehicles and horses are passing.

“The staff shortages have also affected the Town and moving all barriers and planters for a one-hour event created challenges for us,” he said.

The Town of Banff did not want a parade to make current traffic congestion worse.

The May long weekend saw visitation and vehicles return to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels. The tourist town saw 108 per cent of the traffic when compared to the 2019 May long weekend and up to 90-minute delays as vehicles tried to get across the Bow River from tourist attractions on Sulphur Mountain.

Darrah said as a town that strives to be a model environmental community, the municipality is piloting activities that rely less on diesel and fossil fuel-powered vehicles, and their emissions, for community and visitor entertainment.

“We think the activation of the pedestrian zone, with many of the displays and performers, but without moving flatbed trucks, will be a great experience for anyone who comes to Banff for Canada Day,” he said.

Mayor DiManno said she believed the pedestrian zone and the new Bear Street foster community development, and if anything, Canada Day will help to enhance those connections.

“Let’s see for ourselves, though, and then take the conversation from there,” she said.