CELEBRATION - The conclusion of Red Deer’s Diamond Jubilee parade in front of the grandstand at the Fairgrounds

Celebrating Canada’s Diamond Jubilee in 1927

Local historian details Red Deer's role in momentous occasion

In the normal course of events, 1917 should have seen major celebrations of the Golden (50th) Anniversary of Confederation.

However, 1917 was anything but a normal year.

The country was embroiled in the horrific First World War. There was little interest in a widespread celebration of anything other than an early declaration of peace.

While there were few festivities, there were still significant events that helped to forge a widespread sense of nationhood. In April 1917, the Canadians Corps captured the highly strategic Vimy Ridge in northern France. It was a notable achievement attained almost solely by the Canadians themselves.

The end of the War brought more years of pain and hardship.

The economy largely collapsed. Many veterans returned home with poor health only to face incredible levels of unemployment and financial distress. It was not until the latter part of the 1920s that the Canadian economy finally began to recover.

Prime Minister MacKenzie King was determined to celebrate both the improving economic times and the notable international standing earned by Canadians during the Great War.

Hence, a great deal of planning and resources were devoted to making July 1st, 1927 a memorable national event.

One of the most innovative ideas for the Diamond (60th) Jubilee celebrations involved the wonderful new world of radio.

For the first time in history, there was to be a national radio broadcast consisting of the Dominion Jubilee celebrations on Parliament Hill.

The national telegraph network of the Canadian National Railway was to be utilized, in combination with various radio stations across the country.

Red Deer’s new radio station, C.K.L.C. was one of the stations included in the plans.

Meanwhile, the City of Red Deer was still struggling from the enormous burdens of debts incurred during the War and the post-War economic depression.

Hence, it was the new Elks Lodge that spearheaded much of the planning for the local Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The Elks also agreed to cover more than half the cost of the event.

One of the major fundraisers used by the Elks to cover expenses was a special car raffle.

Tickets on the raffle were sold by the Elks across Alberta and also in southeastern B.C.

A subsidiary prize of a Shetland pony and buggy was also offered, with most of those tickets being sold locally.

Three days of festivities were planned.

The kickoff was to take place on Friday, July 1st.

There was to be a special Jubilee parade from the downtown area to the Fairgrounds south of 45th St. At the Fairgrounds, the Elks organized a large 15-booth carnival. The evening was to climax with a huge fireworks display followed by a large public dance in the Exhibition Hall.

Saturday, July 2nd was to be mainly a sports day, with baseball and football (soccer) games, as well as several horse racing events.

The Elks planned to run their carnival all day, with special attention to children’s attractions. On Sunday, July 3rd, there was to have more of a religious tone with a large community service in City Hall Park followed by outdoor performances by local choirs and the Citizens’ Band.

July 1st was a success.

There was a commemorative service at the Cenotaph, Red Deer’s main war memorial, followed by a ‘monster’ parade to the fairgrounds. Large crowds took in the Carnival.

Many gathered in the grandstand to listen to the special national radio broadcast on large outdoor speakers.

Unfortunately, July 2nd brought a lot of rain.

Many of the sporting events had to be delayed or cancelled. The Carnival booths remained open, but the numbers of patrons dwindled as the rain increased.

When the results of the car raffle were announced, the winner turned out to be a man from Coal Creek, B.C. The Shetland pony and buggy, however, had a local winner.

Showers continued on Sunday, forcing the outdoor community religious service indoors. New venues also were found for the band concert and choir performances.

Despite the soggy ending, most people agreed that Red Deer had a reasonably successful Dominion Jubilee celebration with the parade, radio broadcast and fireworks being the best highlights.