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Flowers, flamethrowers to return at Rainmaker Parade

The event brings a plethora of peculiarities to St. Albert.
3004 RainmakerParade SA parade dr147
FWOOSH — The ReMax float burns gas to the delight of parade goers as the Rainmaker Parade winds its way down St. Anne Street in St. Albert May 25, 2019. This flamethrower would be one of the many returning attractions at the 2022 parade. DAN RIEDLHUBER/St. Albert Gazette

Candy, cars, flowers, and one big flamethrower will roll down St. Albert streets this month as the Rainmaker Parade returns after a two-year COVID gap.

Tens of thousands of guests will line the streets in downtown St. Albert May 28 for the annual Rainmaker Parade, which kicks off the city’s long-running weekend festival. Past parades have featured clowns, candy, classic cars, cosplayers, a working train, and a vintage funeral carriage from the early 1900s.

“The crowd we draw is anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 people,” parade chair Larry Hughes said — a guesstimate, as they have never done a formal head-count — and it typically packs both sides of the street.

Hughes said parade participants will muster along Liberton Drive and Muir Drive starting at about 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. The parade sets out at 9:30 a.m. from the church parking lot entrance on St. Vital Avenue, with participants marching down Mount Royal Drive and Mission Avenue, across the Perron Street bridge, and past the parade judges at St. Albert Place before coming to a halt just past the St. Albert Curling Club. All these streets will be closed to regular traffic during the parade, so Hughes advised drivers to find other routes.

Hughes said guests should expect dancers, bands, clowns, and elaborate floats at the parade, along with many free candies handed out to the kids. (Organizers banned participants from throwing candy to the crowds seven years ago because kids kept running into traffic to get the treats.)

The parade typically starts with a colour guard from the St. Albert Legion plus two Rainmaker volunteers carrying the parade sign, Hughes said. The St. Albert Fire Department serves as the parade’s anchor, with the wail of their sirens signalling that the show is over (apart from the sweeper truck right behind them). Participants then rally at St. Albert Place for the Mayor’s Luncheon, during which judges will award prizes for the best entries in the parade.

While past parades have drawn up to 130 entries, Hughes said he wasn’t sure how many groups would participate this year, given recent economic hardships.

“I’m expecting not a great turnout, to tell you the truth, but hopefully I’m surprised.”

Fantastic floats

Gazette historian Jeff Hansen wrote that the Rainmaker Parade started in 1966 with around 90 entries.

Tony Viveiros of Riverside Honda has watched or participated in the parade since the 1960s. There was more of an emphasis on small sports teams and community groups back then, he recalled, and fewer elaborate floats. Marching bands from Edmonton were common, as were the Shriners riding their tiny bikes.

Viveiros said his staff had been brainstorming ideas for this year’s parade, and will likely field a small column of classic and modern vehicles. At the last parade, staff dressed up as horses and sported a sign which read: “Save a horse, ride a Honda.”

“It’s kind of a fun event for our employees,” he said of the parade, and a way to be a part of the community.

St. Albert ReMax Professional owner Shandrie Lewis said she marched in the parade as a youth to promote her father’s outdoor clothing store.

“I was dressed up as a polar bear,” she said, and she and her friends would hand out candy to the crowds.

Lewis said she and her fellow realtors will once again bring a hot air balloon blower to the parade, from which they plan to shoot roaring pillars of orange flame.

“It gets really hot and loud, so the kids love it.”

Lyn Reynolds said the Society of Friends for the St. Albert Botanic Park plan to have a truckload of flowers and sunflower costumes at the parade, and might have some free seeds for guests. She called the parade a fun way to get out and meet people, especially after two years of the pandemic.

“It’s a parade! It’s just fun to do.”


Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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