Clinton May Ball Parade organizers put on a good show Saturday despite having to divert from the traditional route along Highway 97.
For the first time in its decades-old history, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure refused to close the highway for the annual parade, saying it was a “vital link in the transportation of people and goods across B.C.”
“This new route will provide the most safety for parade participants, spectators and highway users, and will minimize the highway closure time,” a MoTI spokesman told the Free Press ahead of the parade.
“With this new route, the ministry is supporting a short closure that we anticipate will take less than 20 minutes.”
However, drivers were backed up for miles at each end of town for at least an hour as the detour saw the parade cross the highway twice – at Carson Street and McDonald Avenue.
MoTI blamed “record attendance of participants and spectators” for the delay and said it would have a debrief with the village to determine “the safest and best option for the parade route in the future.”
Many locals expressed outrage at MoTI both during the parade, as well on social media, asking for a return to the traditional route.
In the past, the section of highway through town was closed, allowing the spectators to crowd around the parade in a festival atmosphere while the vehicles took the detour. “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” asked Clinton Mayor Susan Swan.
Coun. Christine Rivett, who organized the parade with Yvette May, said they had tried to convince MoTI to close the highway but were unsuccessful. The denial followed the exit of the former director of highways for the area, and Rivett said they proposed the detour to ensure the parade went ahead.
The parade, led by Clinton RCMP Cpl. Marika Masters, featured about 20 colourful floats and decorated vehicles representing emergency personnel and local businesses to local First Nations, the Keystone Cops, Can Can dancers from Vancouver and a band from Revelstoke.
Some long-time residents said they preferred the new route, noting there is more traffic and bigger trucks on the road today.
“It’s change and it was either cancel the parade or do something different,” Rivett said before the event. “We tried to come out with a route that would give us more exposure. You just roll with the punches. We’re crossing at the same place. People can sit on their front lawns and watch the parade go by so just enjoy it.”
Rivett noted there were other issues in planning the parade this year, including insurance, and said it may be the last parade unless someone else wants to volunteer to take it on. She estimated the parade cost about $4,000 to organize, and they were fortunate to get funds from the Clinton Community Forest to help pay for it.