Back after a pandemic hiatus, thousands of people attended the Little Britches Parade in High River on Saturday.
The parade also welcomed back marching bands, where members of the Calgary Round-Up Band, the Calgary Stetson Show Band and the Calgary Stampede Showband were all in attendance.
“It was tough,” Evan Burke, a drum major in the Calgary Stetson Show Band, said of the two-year break from performing in the parade. “But we are back and we are ready.”
Ainsley Donaldson is in the colour guard with the Calgary Stetson Show Band which is made up of high school students.
“It’s been difficult because band is one of my favourite things and I just love performing with all of my friends and I’m just really excited to be back after so long,” Donaldson said.
It’s an experience long-awaited after two lost years due to COVID-19.
The Calgary Round-Up Band, made up of junior high students, is one of Canada’s oldest youth marching bands. They merged with the Calgary Stetson Show Band this year because the pandemic reduced their member numbers.
A recent recruitment drive just brought in 100 new performers, bringing the total number of people in the newly merged band to 216 players.
“This is really big which is awesome,” Calgary Stetson Show Band operations director Heidi Haubrich said.
“It’s so important. It really gives them that pay off right away so they can understand how exciting it is to perform, especially at a venue like this,” Haubrich said as the band members prepared to march through High River on Saturday morning.
Last year, a scaled-down Calgary Stampede parade was held but it wasn’t open to the public. The Calgary Stampede Showband performed but the two junior bands have been sidelined until now.
But this year, people lined the streets of the picturesque town cheering as the bands, Shriners and other entries went by.
“It is so wonderful. The fact that they amalgamated the Round-Up Band and the Stetson Band. It just gives the new kids a really good opportunity to get their sociability back and to improve on something that they have waited to do which is to play music again,” said band mom Dianne Rogers.
High River’s mayor said the return of the parade and the Little Britches Rodeo — which is also back again this year — is symbolic.
“It’s fantastic. The streets were packed,” said Mayor Craig Snodgrass. “Days like the parade are big days because with us cancelling all the parades for two years, having this going again is just a big signal that we are moving forward.”
Haubrich said The Round-Up and Stetson bands will go back to being separate bands in September.