The waves and laughter rolled in as thousands of people celebrated in the streets of Prince Rupert on June 11, with the return of the annual 44th Seafest parade after a three-year pandemic hiatus.
More than 32 floats, bands and dance acts waved to onlookers from the cavalcade lining Third Ave for the hour-long event, just one of more than 29 activities around the city. Parade participants came from as far away as Smithers with the high school marching band, and Terrace Bagpipe and drum band.
Organized by the Prince Rupert Special Events Society (PRSES), it is one of the city’s main event attractions and has been opening prelude to summer fun since 1978.
“The first Seafest since the pandemic created a spark in the community again. It was exciting to have an in-person gathering like it,” Bev Killbery, president of the PRSES, said, adding the directors were extremely happy with the results and how the event turned out.
The community-wide event which drew folks from as far away as Smithers, saw parade participants in trucks, floats and themselves with brightly coloured adornment for this year’s Surfs Up Theme.
The celebratory weekend kicked off on June 10, with more than 290 Seniors’ Cheer boxes collected from the Lester Center in place of the usual Seniors’ afternoon tea. The cheer boxes were filled with baked goods, gift cards, a commemorative pin and other treats for Prince Rupert’s population over 60.
Usually a three-day weekend of live fun, the Seafest format has had to adapt due to COVID-19. In 2020 the fiesta fun and parade were cancelled due to the pandemic, and 2021 saw online and televised activities.
Due to COVID caution still being prevalent for many, Seafest celebrations were a scaled-back version with many events held on just Saturday.
“It’s all going to look a little different this year. [As an organization] we strived to capture one day where there was something everyone was familiar with,” Killbery said.
While the parade route was shorter, event-goers experienced some new attractions such as a crab-eating contest as well as new booths such as PURS, an animal rescue organization. A pancake breakfast by the Lions Club, Tim Horton’s four-on-four street hockey, Silver lady living statue, North Coast Ecology displays, sidewalk games, three-on-three basketball, Art-attacks and many more attractions were part of the community gala.
Planning for the major event started in March but faced challenges this year that had not been seen before, Killbery said, addressing the parade route not running along McBride.
She said that permits for provincial hiway use and closures must be applied for in December or January before the June parade. With the pandemic restrictions not being lifted until March, there wasn’t enough time to gain approval, so the organization kept the route running along the city streets.
“Many people were pleased Second Ave was available to drive down this year,” she said.
“We had to wait to plan until the health restrictions were lifted,” Killbery said, adding with new directors on the society many were doing jobs and tasks they had not taken on before.
Labour challenges and volunteer shortages have made relearning the organization of events a new experience for the six board members who are worked hard to present a great weekend to the community, she said. They are very grateful for the more than 50 to 75 volunteers who helped out on the day or for the duration of the planning.
“There is such a shortage of manpower as we come out of the pandemic. Some of the directors are working on aspects they have never done before.”
Killbery told The Northern View on June 14, the PRSES has received feedback that the community would like to see more events brought back into the programming. The committee agrees with this and is taking it on board. However, these events need volunteers, sponsorship, or business and organizational support to run properly, she said.
“Hopefully, we will be able to do more next year.”
“We want everyone to have a good time. Even though there [were] some changes and the parade route is different, we [were] certain everyone [would] have a spectacular time,” the organizer said.
The next community event being planned is the Canada Day celebrations, which may also look a little different, Killbery said. The schedule will be released shortly, but there will definitely be fireworks over Prince Rupert that night.
K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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