When CFL fans come marching into Regina for the Grey Cup the Queen City will be ready to do what it always has: bring back the Grey Cup parade, bigger and better than ever.
Not every Grey Cup festival includes a parade; it's a pseudo-tradition that comes and goes depending on the host city. The organizing committee for this year's Grey Cup festivities will be rejuvenating the practice when the big game returns to Regina later this month.
"I'd call it a totally rejuvenated parade," said Mark Stefan, vice-chair of the Grey Cup Celebration in Rider Nation festival. "The parade has sort of gone sideways over the last number of years."
REJUVENATING A TRADITION
Regina has held a parade during its previous two turns hosting the big game. The city has a habit of making the parade an important aspect of the entire experience.
"The Grey Cup parade hadn't been around for years," recalled Bob Ellard, volunteer president of the 1995 Huddle Up In Saskatchewan Grey Cup. "I forget how many years it hadn't been there...we reinvented the Grey Cup parade."
Rhonda Kerr-White was there at the first Regina parade and has been a part of every Grey Cup event since 1993 as part of the Roughriders Pep Band.
"Our province just can organize anything and be very successful at it," Kerr-White said. "I remember in '95 we had our very first Grey Cup and the next year we were in Hamilton. We were talking with some of the Hamilton people and they said, 'You know what, we'll never top that.'"
The 2003 mass Grey Cup marching band prepares. Photo courtesy Rhonda Kerr-White.
By the time Saskatchewan hosted the Grey Cup again in 2003 more people wanted to be part of the marching band portion of the parade. The 1995 version brought together a 300-member Regina Lions alumni marching band so Kerr-White explained that the aim was to go bigger for the Flat Out in Saskatchewan festival in 2003. Larry Pearen of Yorkton and Collin Grunert stepped up to organize one mass band that anyone could be a part of. Kerr-White said by the time the band lined up on parade day they had about 960 participants.
"We had seven provinces represented. We had a girl from Japan and a person from Great Britain," Kerr-White recalled.
The band itself had literally no practice before parade day. Volunteer members simply gathered the morning of the parade to learn the music before marching through the streets of Regina.
"You see the banner then you see two or three rows of flags. Then you see a whole bunch of colour guard spinning flags. There were baton twirlers. And that's before you even hit the band...there was rows of instruments, then a drum section—rows of instruments, then a drum section. And there was five or six sections," Kerr-White described.
RAISING THE BAR EVEN HIGHER
Now Kerr-White and others are preparing to do it all again. She is serving as an administrator for the 2013 Grey Cup Marching Band which already has around 300 members registered, including students from Kindersley.
Stefan promises that the parade will be much more than just marching bands. The Grey Cup itself will make an appearance alongside celebrities, walking groups, and over a dozen professionally-decorated parade floats.
Imagination Ink of Regina has been commissioned to design and build these temporary floats, a task that's kept Darleen Nichol and her staff busy for some time already. Nichol's company built the parade floats for the 2003 festival as well but Nichol said the three they made that year fails to compare to the 18 being made now.
"We've kind of got (building the floats down) to a science," Nichol said. "It's looking right now that we can get one-and-a-half floats per day done."
However, those are for the team floats: each CFL team (including the nascent Ottawa team) will have a dedicated float. Nichol and her team have stuck to the same design for each of those floats, though she admitted that the Saskatchewan float will stand out.
Designers at Imagination Ink are now working on the sponsor floats, which are more elaborate. Nichol expects the construction of those structures to take up to a week each.
"(We start) by talking to the client and figuring out what they want in their float," explained Nathan Binns, one of the graphic designers, "then getting a few ideas of elements that they want to see on there. Then I try to think how we make that big and how we make that 3D."
One of Imagination Ink's 2013 Grey Cup parade floats. Photo by Courtney Mintenko/CJME
Nichol and Binns agreed the challenge of building temporary floats in the Queen City is having the materials be sturdy enough to stand up against unpredictable weather, including possible high winds, while keeping the materials under budget. However, with the parade direction expected to be bigger and better, Binns admitted he has more freedom with his designs.
"Part of my challenge and what I like to do is try to figure out how to use materials to their full potential," Binns said.
Nichol added that her team will also be designing a 19th float, but only if they have the time and resources to complete it.
The parade on Nov. 23 starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Legislative Building on Albert Street. It will travel up the "Green Mile," ending at Regina Centre Crossing. Stefan gives credit to the Grey Cup volunteers for the drive to make the parade such an important event.
"It's the big event for the Saturday morning that kicks off the weekend events—the precursor to the game the next day," Stefan said.