PEI

March of the Crows a 'ruckus all the way to Victoria Park'

Once a year, people in downtown Charlottetown tend to notice a large group of people dressed as crows and stirring up a commotion on their way to Victoria Park.

Parade of human crows — and real ones — goes Aug. 25 at dusk

'There's just something about putting on a mask and becoming a crow for the day,' says Art in the Open co-founder Becka Viau. (Art in the Open/ Facebook)

Once a year, people in downtown Charlottetown tend to notice a large group of people dressed as crows and stirring up a commotion on their way to Victoria Park.

But there's no need to call 911 — it's an annual rite of passage celebrating all the crows who gather in the park for the winter.

March of the Crows is part of Art in the Open, which marks its eighth year on Aug. 25.

'You just get to be silly and disrupt things'

Co-founder Becka Viau says more people join in the fun every year.

"It's the community dressed up as crows, causing a ruckus all the way to Victoria Park, celebrating the mass murder of crows that we have at Victoria Park."

A murder is the term for a group of crows.

Real crows join in the fun as the march nears Victoria Park. (Submitted by Paul Gauthier )

"Crow families from all across the Island gather for the winter in Victoria Park. I think it's that metaphor of community that really resonates with people. And also, you just get to be silly and disrupt things," Viau said.

Crows have 'strong family bonds'

The massive gathering of the large, intelligent birds has become part of Charlottetown's culture, she said.

"I think the crows definitely are a symbol of life here in the city, and the community has really embraced that."

'I think the crows definitely are a symbol of life here in the city, and the community has really embraced that,' Viau says. (Submitted by David Campbell)

March of the Crows started as an artist project in 2011. In the first year, about 200 people took part. Last year, there were more than 600 by the end, Viau said.

"There's just something about putting on a mask and becoming a crow for the day. I think we all dream to be free as a bird in some sense. But also, crows just have a really great community about them and they have strong family bonds."

'Real crows echoing back the cawing'

The march starts at 7:45 p.m. from the Schurman Family Studio at the Confederation Centre. From there it winds through Victoria Row, Rochford Square and Pownal Street on its way to the park.

More people join in as the march goes on, and so do real crows, since the parade is timed to coincide with their return to the park.

"So you have the human crows cawing and then you have the real crows echoing back the cawing," Viau said.

"In the first year, it was a magical moment that I'll never forget, and I have to say every year it still impresses me."

Looking for volunteers

There will be two free costume-making workshops at the Schurman Studio, held on Aug. 16 and Aug. 23. Both run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and materials will be available to make costumes. People are encouraged to bring baubles, gems and crow feathers if they have them.

But anyone can show up at dusk and be "part of magic," Viau said.

Families of crows from across the Island gather in Victoria Park for the winter. (Submitted by Rosemary Fleming)

Art in the Open is also looking for 100 volunteers to help with about 40 art installations across downtown. The shifts run two hours at a time and could include manning an information booth, handing out pamphlets, accompanying a performer or helping artists install their work.

The event runs from 4 p.m. to midnight on Aug. 25.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Kerry Campbell

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.