SUNDRE, Alta — The president of the Sundre Rodeo & Race Association, the non-profit organization behind the Sundre Pro Rodeo, unequivocally denounced a parade display that made the community go viral for all the wrong reasons.
Out of nearly 100 entries such as the Calgary Round-Up Band and the Lord Strathcona Horse regiment as well as floats, many sharing positive messages including a quote from Nelson Mandela – “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears” – one particular entry ended up casting “definitely a bit of a dark cloud,” said Shane Crouch.
Pictures of two men on a manure spreader labelled “The Liberal” pulled by a tractor – one wearing a turban and fake beard and the other donning a mask presumably mocking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his cohort a racialized caricature of Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the federal NDP – quickly went viral after pictures were posted by spectators on social media.
Both the rodeo and parade organizers posted statements over the weekend that the entry had not been approved.
Posts shared publicly on a local social media page showed that those behind the float had been openly planning and preparing it since late May.
But Crouch doesn’t spend much of his limited spare time on social media, and said he did not know about it in advance.
“I can honestly say none of us did,” he said on Monday, June 27.
“We had no idea about that float going into our parade and under no circumstances would we have ever let that happen. Ever,” he said.
Pressed about the images that had been posted openly online showing the two men in the procession lineup posing for pictures well ahead of the parade’s start time, he said, “I did not know that.”
The rodeo and race association is preoccupied with planning the Sundre Pro Rodeo, and a subcommittee looks after the parade, he said.
Asked whether a family event celebrating community like a parade is an appropriate venue to express political grievances, he said, “100 per cent absolutely not.”
He candidly elaborated.
“Everybody’s entitled to their political beliefs and who they believe in,” he said. “But we stay neutral in all that when it comes to the politics.”
That’s something the association does not want to be involved with in any capacity, let alone approve of, he said.
“I’m a proud Albertan and a proud Canadian and yeah, we all have struggles with our government,” he said. “But what transpired there was unacceptable.”
With the benefit of hindsight, he added, “If I’d have been smarter, I’d have run out there and pulled the mask off the guy driving the tractor, is what I should have done.
“I guess I never even thought of the implications at the time about it. I just thought, ‘Well, that’s kind of a dumb float.’”
A statement denouncing the float was also posted Sunday, June 26 on the Twitter account of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding’s MLA Jason Nixon, who participated in the parade.
Parade organizers told the Albertan in response to questions about a pink VIP ribbon that was pinned to the men that “our volunteers gave them (ribbons) to all whom are involved in any entries staged on the route.”
Moe Fahey, a co-organizer who for many years has alongside Heidi Overguard volunteered to make arrangements for the big parade, said the volunteers did not know which entries were registered or not.
“They did their volunteered assignment,” she said.
Overguard further elaborated in a follow-up text that the person donning the fake beard and turban “was not dressed up that way when he received a ribbon. There is only a handful of volunteers and we did not see them dressed up like that when they entered the parade.”
There were also nearly 100 entries this year, with only eight volunteers involved.
“The floats were a blur to me,” said Fahey. “They are every year – I couldn’t tell you a specific thing about them.”
The parade committee also said it is committed to ensuring that entries will be reviewed in any future events to prevent this from happening again.