CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - To ring in 2017 and the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the City of Charlottetown presented a patriotic parade Saturday evening, Dec. 31.
Called The Peoples’ Night Parade, the event was a unique feature of the City’s New Year’s Eve celebration – aimed at telling the story of Canada’s people from a P.E.I. perspective and serving as a multi-act, multifaceted, multicultural beginning to the night.
Under a starry evening’s sky, families and spectators of all ages gathered between Kent and Grafton streets on Great George Street to take in the kickoff for a night the City of Charlottetown called First Night 150.
“Hello folks, sorry for the wait, but the Peoples’ Parade is about to begin,” announced Teresa Doyle at about 6:15 p.m. as Doyle then set the musical tone for the parade introduction with her song, “I Remember Canada”.
Hoisting beautiful hand-crafted, colourfully-lit woven globes, created by Jeana MacIsaac, white-robed parade leaders began the walk down Great George, as the live music filled the street from the large stage situated in front of the cenotaph on Grafton Street.
Five members of the Mi’kmaq community then paraded down the street, depicting the legend of Glooscap, over the pounding heartbeat of the drum.
A booming-voiced character played by Gordon Cobb spoke what seemed to be the key introductory message of the Peoples’ Night Parade: “Canada is not the place...we are Canada.”
And indeed, as the temperature was hovering at about – 8 C (with a slight wind chill that made it feel like –13 C), we definitely felt like Canadians – bundled up in our parkas and stamping our boots on the pavement to keep the blood flowing as we watched the show.
There were some glowing fire pits here and there, though, which provided both warmth and some illumination for those who were near them, and warmth in the form of sound also surrounded the block when a fiddle played by Aaron Crane (accompanied by Andrew Waite on guitar) wrapped itself around our ears and three step dancers coaxed big cheers from the audience while they danced in the middle of Great George Street.
By this point, the crowd had been encouraged to form a circle around the action in the centre of the street, as the thudding chorus of clapping gloves and mittens resounded after each performance.
Even though the cold and the darkness made it at times a challenge to fully be able to enjoy all the action, it was still a treat to take in the variety of multicultural dances and choreographed displays as the community production played out.
Soon the song called “Spirit” by Wintersleep (with its catchy chorus of “Are You Gonna Be Alright”) echoed around the block, rocked from the main stage by Andrew Waite, musical director for the Peoples’ Night Parade, on guitar and vocals, Nikki Waite on keyboards and backing vocals, Evan McCosham on bass and George Maros on drums.
Folks gathered around and danced near the big stage, while the band played Gene MacLellan’s “Put Your Hand in the Hand” and “The Guess Who’s Share the Land”, as Doyle and her son, Patrick Bunston, joined in with the band on vocals.
However, all of this parade action in its kaleidoscopic display of music and dance then distilled down to the purity of O Canada, sung a cappella on stage by Doyle and Bunston as the crowd joined in around them.
To me, that was the pinnacle, glowingly patriotic moment of the whole experience.
The introductory parade for First Night 150 was an inspired and ambitious presentation for the City of Charlottetown, and kudos to organizers Kele Redmond, Becka Viau, Julia Sauvé, Andrew Waite, Thilak Tennekone and many more who volunteered their time and efforts for this celebratory 2017 kickoff for our community.
Next week: The Ulysses Quartet at UPEI’s Dr. Steel Recital Hall tomorrow night.
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at email@example.com or at 902-626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.
1. Got Blues Matinee: Sonny Boy Williamson Tribute with singer/guitarist James Phillips at The Factory Cookhouse & Dancehall, tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. It’s hosted by Got Blues (Chris Roumbanis and Friends, Reg Ballagh and Mike Robicheau.)
2. 2016 Cannes International Advertising Festival (The World’s Best Commercials) will be screened at City Cinema, Charlottetown, today and tomorrow at 9:10 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. Also plays Jan. 13-15. This annual look back through the year’s best commercials never fails to entertain.
3. Vintage 2.0 with Don Bowers and Tim MacPherson – The Old Triangle, tomorrow at 8:30 p.m.
4. The Ulysses Quartet – Dr. Steel Recital Hall, UPEI, tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. Featuring Christina Bouey, violin, Rhiannon Banerdt, violin, Colin Brookes, viola and Grace Ho, cello. See www.ulyssesquartet.com.
5. Irish Music Session with Roy Johnstone and Friends, The Old Triangle, Sunday, 2-5 p.m.