Sydney Foster and Kayla Preocanin play mini golf in Memorial Peace Park.

Sydney Foster and Kayla Preocanin play mini golf in Memorial Peace Park.

Big turnout for Ridge’s Canada Day event

Maple Ridge residents show their Canadian pride at downtown park.

An estimated 6,000 people donned red and white Maple Leaf T-shirts, tiaras, top hats and temporary tattoos while attending Canada Day celebrations in Memorial Peace Park.

It’s a pretty solid estimate, explained BIA executive director Ineke Boekhorst, because the operators at the Haney Farmers Market used a clicker counter to keep track of the people who visit their bazaar. They clicked off 3,800, and the estimate was adjusted upward for those who didn’t go into the market area.

“It was fantastic – of course, we had awesome weather,” she said. “I’ve never seen it that busy – I’ve been on that committee for 10 or 12 years.

“It’s a small-town Canada Day celebration, and the community really comes out, and it’s all free.”

The weather was hot enough to melt an ice cream bar in minutes, as the temperature soared from a forecast 25 C up to 33 C. Boekhorst said the only thing missing was having the fire department spraying water for kids to run through to cool off.

The BIA offered a business market alongside the farmer’s market for the first time, and Boekhorst said the 27 vendors, both BIA members and home-based businesses, were busy and happy.

“That was really, really successful.”

The centre of the park was operated by Youth Services, which had mini golf, face painting, sack races and other fun events for kids.

There was an official flag raising ceremony attended by local politicians, and the Royal Canadian Legion colour party and RCMP officers in red serge gave it some pomp. The Mounties stayed behind and posed for photos with families.

The master of ceremonies for the day was Fred Armstrong, the district’s manager of corporate communications, and he announced on the day that it was the biggest crowd the event has ever seen.

“It has grown quite substantially,” he said on Wednesday, “and it was huge this year.

“People really came out, and got engaged.”

He said the entertainment bandstand has allowed the event to offer more musical acts and dancing groups, and “it has added a nice polish to the event.”

Armstrong remarked that Canadians are now celebrating Canada Day with a similar fervour to the way Americans mark July 4. His theory is that when Canada won the gold medal in hockey at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, there was a huge, spontaneous celebration by people wearing red and white Team Canada jerseys. He was surprised by what he called “unabashed national pride.

“That was the game-changer for these kinds of events,” he said.

It was easy to rally the same passion for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and at live sites in Fraser Valley communities. People have their Maple Leaf fashions and accessories, and are just waiting for the chance to put them on.

Armstrong said there are no new plans for next year’s event yet, but the potential is clear.

“All the energy is there to take it up a notch.”