War of 1812 hits the streets of Fort Erie for Grande Parade

 

By John Law, Niagara Falls Review

June 24, 2012

It was dubbed the ‘Largest Bicentennial Parade in North America,’ and for a few thousand people gathered along Lakeshore Road, it felt like 200 years of waiting.

Sweaty spectators scrambled for some shade as the parade, meant to honour soldiers who fought in the War of 1812, slowly made its way from the starting point of Gilmore Rd. and Central Ave. By 3 p.m., an hour after its 2 p.m. starting point, the only ‘float’ to go by was Niagara MPP Kim Craitor in vintage military duds.

Former Fort Erie resident Dawn Jones made the trip back home from Ingersol for the parade, sitting on a hot curb since 12:15 p.m. “It reminds me of my childhood!,” she said.

Daughter Rebekah seemed fine with the wait: “It’s not the worst part of my week.”

Soon after, the first of several marching bands could be heard coming up the street, and everyone reached for their cameras.

Organized by the Fort Erie 1812 Bicentennial Committee, the parade featured about 80 units and 2,000 participants, ranging from war re-enactors to military bands. General Rick Hillier, the former Chief of Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces, was Honourary Parade Marshal.

Unlike other Niagara parades, this one was military from start to finish. That’s what brought friends Bob Kelly and Nathan Hiller from Caledon. They’re both members of a camera club, and routinely enter shots they take at Old Fort Erie into competitions. The parade gave them a wealth of things to shoot.

“You get to see the different costumes,” said Hiller. “You learn a little bit when you come to these things. You talk to some people and get a different perspective.”

“These are the things that keep it alive. I don’t know how much of a spectacle (the parade) is going to be, but you hope it’s going to peak more people’s interest to look into it a bit more.”

It appeared to be working on some young parade goers. One kid asked his dad what 1812 meant on one float passing by.

“The War of 1812,” he replied. “If we didn’t win that, we’d be Americans.”

Parking and vantage points were tight during the two-hour parade, but Lakeshore Road resident Leo Favero had a prime spot: His front yard. He brought out some lawn chairs and a few cold ones to watch the festivities with family and friends.

“We’ve met quite a few people from out of town.”

Living next to Old Fort Erie, Favero is never too far away from the War of 1812. The canon fire during re-enactments don’t faze him.

“I enjoy it every day.”

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