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A tradition

Friday, August 17, 2007 | 11:08 AM ET

The first Gold Cup and Saucer Parade was held in 1962, and Joan MacLean figures she's been to every one of them. In 2007, she's attending with her granddaughter April Richards, who's visiting from Brooks, Alta.

Joan MacLean
Joan MacLean and April Richards wait for the parade.

MacLean grabbed her spot on the parade route a few minutes after 9 a.m. for the 10 a.m. start, and I set up my chairs next to her. It's a spot where she's been sitting for decades. When the children were younger, they'd wait for the crowds to dissipate.

"We'd have lunch back here," she told me, pointing to a lawn behind her. After lunch they'd all head to the exhibition grounds.

"It's a tradition," she said. One that her family has enjoyed for decades.

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Super Mario

Friday, August 17, 2007 | 11:06 AM ET

You never know who you're going to see in your front yard. One year it was Shrek. A very simple costume: the ears, the vest, green from head to toe. What made all the difference was the guy was about six-foot-four, 220 pounds. Looked like the real thing.

This morning it was Super Mario, that famous handyman, screwdriver in hand, putting the finishing touches on the float in front of my house.

The excitement is building now. An hour ago, you could only hear people chat and someone stapling balloons on to a flatbed. Now The Price is Right theme is vying with various dance tunes, The Locomotion, songs from Grease and I Wear My Sunglasses at Night.

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The Balloons

Friday, August 17, 2007 | 10:08 AM ET

It's always fun to get a sneak peak at the balloons. It's particularly good if you can catch them half-inflated.

Balloons
The Cheshire Cat, a lion and ...

What is that? Is it a banana? No, I think it's Bart Simpson.

This year there is the Cheshire Cat, a lion and ... well, when I was there, it just looked like a large stain on the ground, still waiting for the magic of gas to give it form.

This year I caught Cookie Monster flat out on his back, cookies spread out across his chest, having a rest before the parade. Someone was wandering around inside him making mysterious adjustments.

Geoff Stoyle
Geoff Stoyle working the gas bottles.

I asked Geoff Stoyle of Dynamic Displays, who was working the gas bottles, what was going on inside Cookie Monster? My first thought was these things float, they must have helium in them. How is that guy breathing?

But it's mostly just air inside Cookie Monster. The guy inside is placing weather balloons to provide the lift. Fans built right into the balloon keep air blowing in throughout the parade to keep it inflated.

This technique for balloons, rather than just straight helium, was invented by Dynamic Displays, a Canadian company, back in 1963.

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Breaking free of the parade

Friday, August 17, 2007 | 08:38 AM ET

Some of that traffic is my neighbours trying to escape before it gets too busy. Living on a corner, I am fortunate that I can park overnight on the side street. My neighbour, trying to get out this morning, is not so lucky, but a brief chat with one of the parade marshals allowed her to plot her escape.

The street is empty
The only other time I see North River Road this empty is during blizzards.

Some of the floats do all their decorating here. Two have already arrived. One, from a photo studio, is next door. Apparently there will be dogs playing poker on the back of the flatbed. The tables and chairs are set up and the truck is being given a final polish. The dogs have not yet arrived.

The weather is looking promising. It's grey, but the birds are singing and the ground is drying from an overnight soaking. No mention of showers in the forecast.

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A little noise

Friday, August 17, 2007 | 08:24 AM ET

Not as quiet as usual, a few vehicles making their way up and down the street, but nothing like your average Friday morning.

At first, I thought they hadn't closed down the street yet, and the traffic was just those few people who didn't know the street is supposed to be closed. But the barricades are up. Mostly it seems to be pickup trucks. Saw one trailerless tractor-trailer and a car with four-way flashers on.

I suspect deliveries to the fields by the schools. That's right next to where the parade starts, and part of it is marshalled there: the balloons, the bands.

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Something new

Thursday, August 16, 2007 | 08:18 PM ET

Even after six years on the parade staging ground, new things can appear. In this case: a portable toilet on my side lawn.

portapottie
I only hope there are no cracks in the bottom of this.

I can only speculate why after all these years, a portable toilet is necessary for those preparing floats. Perhaps there have been complaints that two to three hours of setting up followed by two hours on the parade route can be a bit of a strain. Perhaps there are new federal regulations concerning the crowds associated with the staging of parades and toilet facilities. Maybe there have always been portable toilets, and it is just our turn to host one.

Whatever the reason, I am fervently hoping there are no small cracks in this device.

I will get to sleep in tomorrow, a little. Usually nothing happens before 6:30 a.m. My first awareness that there is a parade about to happen is not the noise of people setting up, but the quiet of a complete lack of traffic on the normally bustling North River Road.

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Barricades delivered

Thursday, August 16, 2007 | 02:59 PM ET

When I went home for lunch the barricades were sitting on the sidewalk outside my house, waiting to close down North River Road sometime overnight: sign No. 2.

The weather forecast for the parade is improving. In the last decade or so I believe I've only missed one parade, and I don't ever remember it raining. But then again, the sun always seemed to shine in the summers of my youth as well.

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The paint goes on

Wednesday, August 15, 2007 | 03:57 PM ET

Last weekend, the numbers were painted on the street in front of my house, the first visible sign of preparations for Charlottetown's Gold Cup and Saucer Parade, Atlantic Canada's largest. Since I moved to this part of Charlottetown six years ago, I have watched as North River Road, one of the city's major north-south arteries, is closed down in the early morning hours to allow floats and bands and the ever-reliable Shriners to make final preparations and use the painted markers to get themselves in the right order for the march down to the end of the street and through the downtown.

The numbers have been painted on the road
Busy North River Road will be closed down Friday.

Living on the parade marshalling grounds provides a special perspective, like being backstage for a gigantic live performance. Props and sets are rolled into place, performers have final rehearsals, parade marshals roll up and down the street providing instructions.

Join me backstage Friday morning as I share this perspective here, and record new memories of the Gold Cup and Saucer Parade. CBC wants to hear your memories, too. Share them by clicking on the link below.

Kevin Yarr
Web journalist
Prince Edward Island

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Waiting for the parade Archives »

Recent Posts

A tradition
Friday, August 17, 2007
Super Mario
Friday, August 17, 2007
The Balloons
Friday, August 17, 2007
Breaking free of the parade
Friday, August 17, 2007
A little noise
Friday, August 17, 2007

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