This fall, a New Westminster tradition barely anyone knows about will celebrate its 25th anniversary.
It’s one I had a hand in starting back in 1991. That’s when I rounded up a few buddies in the local media business to rekindle our childhood passion for road hockey.
We gathered on the old tennis courts in Queen’s Park, put down some spare boots and jackets for goalposts and had at it. Just like when we were kids. Because as much as ice hockey is our national obsession, the street game is our national pastime.
Pretty much every kid who grew up in Canada has played road hockey. They know the sting of the evil orange ball on a cold day. They understand the unique skill of shooting that ball with a plastic “Superblade” worn down by the hardtop to the thickness of a toothpick. They’ve scowled at insensitive drivers with the temerity to drive through their game to get home. They’ve delayed dinner just to play a little longer. They’ve played out the thrill of winning a Stanley Cup between the curbs.
Today it smelled like cold, and I found myself thinking about the upcoming holiday season. I recalled recently reading a piece in the Royal City Record that the folks at the Hyack Festival Association are proposing to change up the Santa Claus Parade of Lights to a event that focuses on Hyack Square and a giant Christmas tree, with some sort of light display along the wall of the Salvation Army.
Thank goodness, I say. Why did this take so long?
The three times I have attended the Parade of Lights since my son was born, I have had to leave early when he got fussy or bored or cold, and the watery hot chocolate isn’t enough to keep him occupied. We see the same floats and groups march on by for more than an hour that we see in the (much warmer) Hyack Parade in May. The one time we were there long enough to move to Hyack Square, we clustered around to watch the spectacularly miniature tree get lit while a number of politicians talked about how the Christmas spirit was alive and well (which it is – I’m not being a Grinch here). There were no bleachers, no seating, not even organized areas to stand – no way for the short folks such as myself or my child to even see what was going on as we stood in the scrum of people with hardly a way to even get out of the crowd mid way through. My son didn’t care one tiny bit for the speechifying and was bored bored bored. We left, and went home and watched Miracle on 34th Street, drank eggnog, and ate mandarin oranges.
A number of the councillors are quoted in the Record’s article as being concerned about the change, and while they don’t necessarily oppose it, they mostly seem underwhelmed and even somewhat resistant to the idea. All of their comments centre around their own opinions of the parade. One comments that “he always liked the parade”, and cites concern that it won’t attract families if it is presented in another format. Another says “Personally, I like the parade,” and worries that a transition to another format will be too quick. I’m not trying to single out anyone out, here, but only one of our current councillors is currently raising a young family in our city.
In the article, Mayor Wright is quoted as saying “Change does not come easily to anybody. We welcome your new ideas. We have to work into them.” His comment is absolutely spot on. The Santa Claus Parade of Lights in its current format is boring and outdated, and while I want to support the parade and the many community groups that volunteer their time and effort, I can only placate my son for so long while we passively watch it stream by. I wonder how many people continue to come to the parade year after year to watch the same thing over and over because there is no other free community holiday festival?
Dear Hyack Festival Association,
You have my wholehearted support to change the Parade into something that actually feels like a holiday celebration in the city. You can’t do it soon enough.