While the Ponoka Stampede Parade was a welcome sight to many on June 30 after two years with few public events, the end of the parade left more than a few ears ringing.
Members of the Great Canadian Cruise, or the Freedom Convoy had several big rig vehicles at the rear of the parade that blared their air horns as they passed.
Ponoka resident Jessica Jones said the noise was scaring young children and was hard on seniors as well.
Jones, who has lived in Ponoka for four years, has a six-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old.
She was sitting across from Shoppers downtown with her children to watch the parade.
“When I saw the convoy coming, I told my son to back away from the road as these guys on bikes were driving up and down the side, which appeared quite dangerous,” said Jones.
“The truckers were hammering their air horns six feet away from us, and the kids were frightened.”
Seeing that her children were holding their ears and crying, she ran out into the street to try to talk to one driver, asking them to stop honking their horns and yelled, “You’re scaring the kids.”
According to Jones, the trucker just looked at her, laughed and kept hammering their horn to drown her out.
“I was trying to get away but I couldn’t get out of there quickly enough, trying to pack up chairs and my kids,” she said, adding that two seniors thanked her for trying to get the truckers to stop the noise.
“The whole afternoon, my ears were ringing. Not only were they horrifically inconsiderate to people, they could have permanently damaged peoples’ ears,” said Jones.
“Had I expected that it was going to be a parade that involved protesters of that nature who have exhibited this bombastic, ruthless attitude, I would have known that it wouldn’t be a place for children,” she said.
“I tried to look past it the day after and asked my six year old if he enjoyed the parade and he said, ‘The first part was OK but I still hear ghosts in my head from the horns.’
“In my point of view … it was a horrifying and potentially dangerous end to what started as a really great parade for families,” said Jones.
“A friend of mine who came from out of town to attend the parade, said she will not be coming to Ponoka with her children ever again.”
On their Facebook page, the Great Canadian Cruise states the the cruise is by the people, for the people, and planned a journey across Canada to Ottawa to raise awareness of the “atrocities” experienced over the past two years.
“Our goal is to educate, empower and engage Canadians to stand up and speak out for their fundamental freedoms as free individuals,” states the page which does not include a contact option.
Resident of Ponoka Bonnie Meikle messaged Ponoka News to express her support of the convoy’s entry into the parade.
“I am … grateful that it is recognized that while not everyone agrees on these matters, that freedom of speech and of expression are of paramount importance and must not be lost,” said Meikle.
Stampede director Greg Gordon has been in charge of organizing the Ponoka Stampede Parade for 22 years.
Gordon said the Ponoka Stampede Association’s policy when it comes to groups wanting to be in the parade is that they don’t turn anyone away.
Some of the other political entries in the parade included the local MP Blaine Calkins and MLA Ron Orr, UCP leadership hopeful Brian Jean campaigned during the parade, Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange and a pro-life float.
While he said parades get noisy and while he saw that some children were using earplugs, he acknowledged that the noise from the big rig trucks was over the top.
“This was extreme, I’ll agree with that,” said Gordon, adding that the noise issue will be addressed next year as they will ask all entrants to keep the noise to a more reasonable level.
The parade was smaller this year by about 25 floats, though there was still a good variety of entrants and the parade seemed to be received well by the crowds, he said.
The parade theme this year was celebrating 155 years of Canada, something that needs to be celebrated in order to “bring this country back together,” said Gordon.
“We need to celebrate Canada.”
Many hours go into planning the Ponoka Stampede Parade. It involves the effort of 30 volunteers, two paid groups and the help of the Town of Ponoka to bring it all together.
This year, there were about 40 official entries, with about 20 complementary entrants or single vehicles showing up on the day, said Gordon.
Planning starts in the beginning of May and continues right up until parade day.
Town communications manager Sandra Smith confirmed that the town is not involved in the organization of the parade.
”The town’s only roles are to facilitate road closures for the parade, which includes public notification of the road closures and the event in general, barricade placement and removal, and general community clean up following the parade which we do following any community event of this type,” said Smith in a statement.
“The town also enters two town floats in the parade.”