With a plethora of firsts for organizers and visitors alike, it’s clear that this year’s Canada Day was one of the most memorable in years.
In addition to being the first Canada Day parade since the pandemic began, this year’s procession also featured a new route and format.
The parade traveled down 48th Street and southwest along Franklin Avenue, ending at the community arena parking lot. It also started with a run for the first time.
A selection committee judging parade entries on behalf of the Rotary Club of Yellowknife judged Bella Dance Academy as the best entertainment entry, Yellowknife Southern Cameroon Cultural Association as the best community group entry, Yellowknife Co-op as the best corporate entry, and the Radio Control Enthusiasts of Yellowknife entry as the Judge’s Choice winner.
“A lot of people came in this morning that we hadn’t seen before, and a lot of kids too, so that’s great,” said Conrad Schubert, an organizer for the Canada Day Mile race.
Schubert said he was inspired to create the Canada Day Mile after hearing about places in the United States where they hold a race on the same day as a parade while the roads are still closed to traffic.
“We have a closed route, we have a big crowd, and we have people coming in costumes and that kind of stuff, so it was fun. The community response has been really, really good,” Schubert said.
Participants in the Canada Day Mile were encouraged to wear orange as well as red and white, in honor of residential school victims.
“Canada is a great place, but you know, we’re always getting better, and I think the orange reminds us that we still have a way to go,” Schubert said.
One runner stood out from the crowd with their unusual choice of running outfit, namely a cartoon giant panda costume.
“I thought it was Canada Day, why not dress up in something fun just to keep it exciting for the kids?” the runner said, identifying himself only as Kung Fu Panda.
Although it’s not his first run in a suit, the runner said it was the first time he’s run in a suit in six years – and his first time without a partner to guide him.
“I get nervous – not from running, but from bumping into people, or tripping and falling and losing my mind. But all the kids love it, so I’m just happy to help create oomph,” Kung Fu Panda said.
For others, today was their first participation in a fashion show.
Siobhan, 8, visited a bike decorating station where participating children received flags and banners for their bikes, a $10 ticket and the chance to participate in the parade.
While Siobhan said she was “a bit nervous” to be in a parade for the first time, but felt her four years of cycling experience had prepared her well for this moment. During the parade, she was all smiles as the crowd cheered her and her tricked-out wheels.
Adults and children lined Franklin Avenue in a sea of red, white and orange attire as they cheered on the parade floats.
“It’s good to see a lot of orange sweaters outside, and everyone is getting along and having fun today,” said onlooker Joanne Tsetta, a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation from Ndilǫ.
Wearing an orange shirt herself, Tsetta said it’s important on days like today not just to celebrate, but also to think critically about Canada’s history.
“My mother, my aunts, my uncles, they were all at boarding school. So Canada Day is just another day,” Tsetta said.
Next, onlookers headed to Somba K’e Civic Plaza to indulge in the many food stalls, art vendors, and bouncy castles stationed in the area.
“It’s a day we always enjoy. It’s a happy Canada Day,” said visitor Mohammed Khan. .”
Near the stage, the afternoon of performances began with a recognition of the earth, a prayer and a drum dance offered by the Yellowknives Dene Drummers.
Although fire feeding had to be halted due to persistent winds in the area, speeches continued with remarks from Mayor Rebecca Alty, Premier Caroline Cochrane, Marc Whitford of the North Slave Métis Alliance and Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine.
Each speech encouraged the audience to reflect on colonial violence in Canada, particularly as it relates to the painful and lasting legacy of residential schools in the aftermath of mass graves discovered across the country. Chief Antoine also made sure to draw attention to the continuing threat of climate change and the importance of shared environmental stewardship among all Canadians.
Then it was time for William Prince to take the stage.
People sat side by side, singing as Prince and his band played an hour and a half set.
“I love William Prince, his music is really good,” said audience member Nancy Lamb. “I didn’t know him before today, but I really like his music, it’s really great. I think I’ll listen to it a bit later.
While this isn’t Prince’s first time entertaining Yellowknife crowds, he had his first experience: the first time he received fan art on stage.
Maddie, 7, said she was inspired by his music to make a drawing for Prince, which she gave to him as he finished a song from his set on stage. Maddie said she drew two roses and a sign that read “I love your songs”.
“He was singing a song about nature and stuff so I thought I’d give him a flower,” Maddie said.
Prince’s set was followed by performances by Bella Beats, Patrick Jacobson and the Bush Pilots.
For spectators like Gilbert and Dorothy Suchy, the day’s festivities served as a reminder of just how much they should be grateful for as Canadians.
“We live in the most wonderful country in the world and we have everything. We have all our freedoms,” Dorothy said.
“We’ve traveled all over the world, and Canada is the best.