Empire Days great tribute to our history
THE DAILY NEWS MAY 22, 2012
Members of Nanaimo's Empire Days Society had a stroke of genius when they decided to incorporate the annual Pacific Northwest Shriners convention into the celebration of Queen Victoria's birth.
More than 500 Shriners from Texas to Alaska and all locales in between brightened a dreary day for the thousands who watched the 145th Empire Days Parade on Sunday in downtown Nanaimo.
Thousands of people lined Commercial Street to see what many have become accustomed to: some interesting floats, too many waving politicians, bands, the May Queen and her Royal Party and Barbara Dezprez doing the royal wave as she depicts Queen Victoria.
The Shriners spiced things up a bit this year.
Their clowns had children and adults roaring with laughter with their antics; they brought camels, middle-eastern dress, kazoo bands, pointy shoes and Arabian headdresses to Nanaimo and people loved it.
The Empire Days Society used Nanaimo having a Shriners organization for 100 years as the theme of this year's celebration. Not only did the numerous Shriners clubs from across the continent add extra colour and interest to Sunday's parade, they extended the length of it much to the delight of those watching.
It was refreshing this year not to have letters to the editor or protestors decrying the origins of Empire Days and criticizing the society because it brought back memories of Great Britain's imperial past and the treatment of British Columbia's First Nations. Undoubtedly, these are part of our history but that's all - history.
As one woman from Winnipeg commented to a Daily News reporter: "It is just so nice to see so many people in downtown Nanaimo.
"I think you've got a lovely downtown and I've been here at other events and there's hardly been anybody in the downtown."
Businesses and St. Paul Anglican's annual hotdog sale were booming downtown on Sunday.
People were lining up for the hot dogs as well as for seats in outdoor patios.
The Empire Days Parade is the unofficial kickoff to the summer and if this year's parade is any indication, Nanaimo residents are in for one heck of a fun time this year.
Festival season has started and it's going to take some effort by both the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Society and the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society to match the fun of Sunday's parade.