Behind the scenes of the Emo Fair parade

By Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nothing demonstrates community spirit quite like parades. A procession of people, floats, kings and queens march through the streets surrounded by crowds of people — of all ages and places — to celebrate a common event.

While having a fun time is the focus of the procession, a little friendly competition spurs people to bring their best foot forward and have an even better time.

Karen Silander, parade judge and director for the Emo Fair board, shares some insight to the parade judging process.

To catch the judge’s eye, the theme of the entry should be clear and concise — the more original the better. Costumes, sound, and special effects could be added to the entry, and colours should work well together, having good proportion, balance and depth.

Before parade floats can be judged, Silander says they must line up on time at the designated meeting spot. Along with Gayle Hyatt, who is head of the parade, the two women walk down the line of floats, organized by categories, and select the winning entries before the parade begins.

“They have to line up at noon,” Silander said. “And so Gayle Hyatt and I, we go down the line up, and you put trucks with trucks and cars with cars, etcetera, and then we hand them each a paper that has to have their name and phone number on it.”

“And then we then judge as we walk and we write it down and then when we come back up slowly up the line, we know who we’re going to have first in this class and the second in this one and third,” she said.

When looking at old cars, she says it’s important to look at the authenticity of the car and how well it is taken care of.

“How it’s built, how it’s taken care of, and how it looks presenting itself. You just go down and you can pick out the good qualities of a car or truck,” Silander said.

In the past, horses were also registered as part of the parade.

“In the last couple of years, we haven’t had horses in the parade. We don’t really know why. But a lot of the farmers that used to have horses in the parade have passed on. So that could be a lot of why there isn’t any now,” she said. “We had a meeting last [week] and we had talked about that as well. So hopefully, in the future, we can get horses into it again.”

On the bright side, there is still a chance this year. Silander says that people can register to participate in the parade up to the last second, a flexibility that adds an element of surprise as to what will be featured.

“You can come any time, you can come at the last minute,” she said. “It’s lots of fun. And you can march through town and you can just have a good time with everybody. Be happy. Have fun.”

Silander added that there will be prizes for each of the categories, even for categories such as best child group or best child-decorated bike.

First place typically brings home $20, second will get $15 and third place will get $10 — an amount that will come in handy to enjoy the many treats at the fair.

Silander has been involved with the parade as a judge for about three years, but helped with other tasks in the parade for a few years prior. One of her favourite things about the parade is seeing people have a happy time.

“You see old old pickup trucks, old cars, it’s just the people, they’re all happy amalgamating together and so on. You know, it’s just a happy time. They’re all happy to be there. And, hopefully it’s good weather.”

At the Emo fairgrounds, this year’s parade line-up starts at 1 p.m. The parade route begins in front of the Emo Hospital, follows Front Street, turns into Queen Street, crosses Highway 11/71 and ends at the grandstands.

Judging starts promptly at 12:30 p.m. before the parade begins.

For more information on the parade, visit