Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Canada Day

Chilliwack's 1946 Cherry Carnival

Not wanting to let an opportunity go by I decided to surf the Chilliwack Museum collection’s database and see what I might find about Canada Day. Keyword search “July” and object 1987.050.001 jumps out from the screen. Appropriate too as I wanted to write about the Cherry Carnival but not the usual, “The Cherry Carnival started in…and ended in” three paragraphs later! This leather pennant from July 1, 1946 marked an important date in the carnival’s history from 1927 – 1955.

It turns out that 1946 was the first year of the carnival after a five year hiatus due to the Second World War. Unlike previous years when the event was largely run by the Board of Trade and the Kinsmen Club, 1946’s success was due to more than a dozen organizations. A special CNR train brought visitors from Vancouver to the celebration, and additional city bussing moved people about the town. Who recalls the army balloons flying above the center of town marking Five Corners as the destination? The parade was a huge success, despite the shortages of decorative materials, and some 12,000 spectators appropriately applauded, encouraged and cheered the many floats and participants.

At the fairgrounds, located near present day Evergreen Hall, fastball and baseball were featured, but perhaps the grandest event was the cherry pie eating contest with various local celebrities and politicians involved in the all-star “munch-down”. The crowning of the Cherry Carnival Queen was a highlight and this year Gloria Hudson was chosen as the belle of the ball.

All the while the “Five Corners Fiesta” provided the longest continuous attraction of the event. As the carnival mascot, “King Bing” walked around the crowds distributing tickets and give-aways, some 4,000 carnival hats were distributed to school children. An earlier newspaper plea calling for fruit sellers, especially cherries, worked well as private vendors sold in excess of 4.5 tons of fruit. The two street dances in the evening, on Princess Avenue, were a great success with Sandy’s Serenaders and Neil Unruh’s band providing the tunes of the day until midnight. Who out there recalls our local citizenry who were encouraged to wear “national comic, hillbilly or comic strip character costumes to make the street scene as colourful as possible”? (Chilliwack Progress, June 26, 1946, page 18) It would be grand to find some images of this 1946 event.

The Museum is fortunate to have a number of Cherry Carnival objects representative of its many years of celebration. However, as always, we are always interested to know what you may have from the carnival, souvenirs of an event so fondly remembered and so often recalled.

Image: Cherry Carnival pennant of 1946.

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