SUNDRE, Alta — With both sun and smiles beaming bright as thousands lined either side of the Highway 27-Main Avenue corridor through town, an otherwise positive vibe during the Sundre Pro Rodeo Parade’s return following a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus was marred when one entry went viral for the wrong reasons.
Among those marching in the procession’s return were the Calgary Stetson Show Band, the Red Deer Royals marching concert band, as well as the sharply-dressed Lord Strathcona’s Horse regiment and plenty of other entries, ranging from vintage classics to some buggies, period costumes, and of course dignitaries and rodeo royalty and more.
A poster on one float even shared an uplifting quote from Nelson Mandela, “May your actions reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
But one particular entry ended up going viral for all the wrong reasons: two men on a manure spreader labelled “The Liberal”— one wearing a turban and fake beard and the other donning a mask presumably mocking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his cohort appeared to be a racialized caricature of Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the federal NDP.
Pictures shared on social media shortly afterward went viral and garnered a fast and furious social media backlash, even going on to find traction in headlines.
Parade organizers subsequently said in a public statement posted on social media whose comment section has since been closed off, that the entry was unplanned and that an improved registration and screening process in the future will prevent reoccurrences.
“The entry was not approved and upon further investigation joined the parade without passing through any registration,” reads a portion of the statement.
“The committee is committed to ensuring that entries will be reviewed in any future events to prevent this from happening.”
However, a closeup of the man depicting Singh clearly shows a pink VIP ribbon pinned on his chest.
Asked how that ribbon appeared if the entry was unplanned, Moe Fahey, a co-organizer who for many years has alongside Heidi Overguard volunteered to make arrangements for the big parade, told the Albertan on Sunday, June 26 by text, “our volunteers gave them to all whom are involved in any entries staged on the route.”
The volunteers, Fahey added, did not know which entries were registered or not.
“They did their volunteered assignment,” she said.
Overguard further elaborated in a follow-up text that the person donning the fake beard and turban “was not dressed up that way when he received a ribbon. There is only a handful of volunteers and we did not see them dressed up like that when they entered the parade.”
Pictures posted publicly online prior to the start of the procession showed the float with the two individuals already dressed up about 15 minutes before the parade's start time.
There were also nearly 100 entries this year, with eight volunteers involved.
“The floats were a blur to me,” said Fahey. “They are every year – I couldn’t tell you a specific thing about them.”
The committee’s official statement posted on social media said the parade is intended “to be a celebration of community” and “showcasing a positive family experience.”