Empire Days embraces traditions

NANAIMO – Queen Victoria's birthday will be celebrated with a bigger parade and return of some old traditions.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

Back in the days of coal miners and colonialism, athletic competition and street entertainment were all part of celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday.

Echoes of those traditions have returned for Empire Days 2013, which will include a pre-parade run by the Bastion Running Club and family activities downtown.

“This year I wanted to do something a little bit different, so I moved all the entertainment to Diana Krall Plaza,” said Diana Lilley, Empire Days parade chairwoman.

Nanaimo’s Empire Days celebrations, according to earliest accounts, have been hosted here since 1863. Events for 2013 started with a Heritage Tea, sponsored by the Order of the Eastern Star May 11 and an official proclamation and flag raising at Pioneer Waterfront Plaza Monday.

Traditions continue Thursday (May 16) with the coastal patrol vessel HMCS Nanaimo arriving at Nanaimo Cruise Ship terminal, followed by the May Queen party crowning and pageant at Seaview Elementary School in Lantzville Friday (May 17).

The May Queen party visits the Vancouver Island Military Museum and Nanaimo Museum Saturday (May 18) when the party also fires one of the historic canons at Pioneer Waterfront Plaza at noon. HMCS Nanaimo hosts an open house 1 – 3 p.m. Sunday (May 19) celebrations start off with a Kinsmen pancake breakfast at Diana Krall Plaza at 10 a.m.

Entertainment and activities include a bouncy castle, mini doughnut factory, circus fun with VestaFire Entertainment, balloon artist Crazy Chris, magic shows, B.C. Hydro Power Smart and more.

St. Paul’s Anglican Church will host a hotdog sale starting at noon.

“The Bastion Runners are going to run a one mile race about 10 minutes before the parade,” Lilley said.

The inaugural running of the Bastion Mile will give spectators and participants a chance to see who is the fastest miler around. The race course takes runners down Commercial Street, up Skinner Street and finishes on Front Street.

Nanaimo’s 146th Empire Days Parade starts at 1 p.m. and follows its usual route down Victoria Road, Commercial and Front streets.

“Right now we’ve got about 53 entries,” Lilley said. “We have some new people which is very nice and we’ve got five bands.”

The Red Hot Chilli Steppers will be the parade’s grand finale with a performance that includes their float stretching nearly 100 metres down the parade route.

Nanaimo Salvation Army and Order of the Easter Star will be on hand celebrating their 125th and 100th anniversaries respectively in Nanaimo.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s 1913 American LaFrance fire truck, affectionately known as Shaky, will shudder and shake its way through the parade while celebrating its 100th birthday, too.

Empire Days celebrations culminate at 10 p.m. at the Nanaimo waterfront with the Fireworks Over the Harbour.

For more information please visit the Nanaimo Empire Days website at www.nanaimoempiredays.com.