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Timing of Banff's parade to create Canada Day chaos

“It is indeed a challenge; it is the busiest time of day without a doubt on a holiday Monday."
People riding bicycles, skateboards, scooters, unicycles, and roller skates participate in the 2023 Canada Day wheelers parade in the pedestrian zone at Caribou Corner in Banff. JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

BANFF – The return of the traditional Canada Day parade in Banff for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to create traffic gridlock late afternoon and early evening in the tourist town.

The July 1 celebrations are expected to attract up to 40,000 people in downtown Banff throughout the day, with the much-anticipated parade of floats and bands on Banff Avenue slated to go from 4:30-6 p.m.

Town of Banff officials say the afternoon/early evening scheduling for the parade is required in order to share attendance of marching bands and other performers with the Canmore parade, which kicks off at noon.

“It is indeed a challenge; it is the busiest time of day without a doubt on a holiday Monday,” said Jason Darrah, director of communications and marketing for the Town of Banff.

“There’s a lot of moving parts and we’re going to do our best, but it will be a pretty slow moving town on that day.”

Darrah said there will be a big communications push in the Calgary region where most of Banff’s visitors come from to let them know what to expect for the day.

“The problem is the entire town will be probably full by 11 a.m., and indicating that to the Calgary region is part of it, to have people arrive sooner or earlier,” he said.

The parade route will run down Banff Avenue from Fox Street to Buffalo Street, then end at Bear Street on Buffalo Street.

For the two blocks of the pedestrian zone, the parade route will use one lane – the centre southbound lane on the west side of Banff Avenue, which is the side with the fewest outdoor patios.

The duration of the parade will be longer than in the past, requiring total road closure on Banff Avenue from Fox Street to Buffalo Street and a portion of Bear Street from 4-6:30 p.m.

Darrah said the Town of Banff has planned for additional staffing required for professional flaggers and traffic management vehicles throughout the day.

He said the Norquay Road entrance will be closed during the parade and vehicles will be rerouted to Banff Avenue entry.

“The traffic management plan, per se, includes closing Norquay Road during the time of the parade and that’s a safety feature to prevent backups onto the highway,” he said.

“We’ll be keeping the Norquay Road open as long as possible because our Banff Ave will be closed starting at Fox Street (for the parade).”

Mayor Corrie DiManno was pleased to hear about increased traffic management and communication.

“This parade, and I hear you Mr. Darrah around the time, this is happening at the same time as hotel check-in,” she said.

“In general, we know the afternoons tend to be more traffic heavy in the summertime because folks are coming back in from hiking or adventuring or what have you.”

The Town will communicate with residents ahead of time, including those who live on Cougar Street from Squirrel Street to Marmot Crescent, which is the staging area for setup of parade participants and floats.

“That’s a major impact on Cougar Street and the egress and access for people who live on that street,” said Darrah.

With Canmore’s Canada Day parade starting at noon, Banff’s is held later in order to share the marching bands and other performers as part of an alternating schedule between the two communities.

The Town of Banff’s cost for 50 per cent of the fee for the hired marching bands is $12,000.

“This is so exciting,” said Coun. Kaylee Ram. “I know sometimes people get fearful that this will have crossover with Canmore.”

The Town of Banff’s overall budget for Canada Day is $95,750, which includes promotions, signage, performers, traffic management and equipment rentals. Of that, $70,000 is specifically related to the parade.

The July 1 event has experienced a 20 per cent increase in insurance costs and almost a 50 per cent increase in fencing costs, with additional staffing for professional flaggers and traffic management vehicles, plus the labour costs accounting for another 30 to 40 per cent cost increase.

Administration says spiralling costs and reintroduction of the traditional parade, compared to the non-vehicle people-power parades the last couple of years, mean some of the traditional components of the Canada Day celebration have been scaled back or removed.

They say the pedestrian zone will have roving performers but the mini stage used in recent years on Banff Avenue will not be possible. In addition, there will be no evening performances in Central Park this year.

“There’s still a full slate of activities,” said Darrah.

The Canada Day Market, which will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., has been relocated from Central Park to Bear Street this year, to free up parking at Central Park, which is one of the busiest parking lots.

Central Park will be promoted as an enjoyable relaxation area, beneficial for people who prefer quieter spaces.

The Family Fun Zone returns to Banff Community High School field, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with a family entertainment stage, roving performers, lawn games and activities, First Nations teepee and cultural conversations.

As part of budget discussions earlier this year, council removed the pyrotechnics show from the Canada Day event amid concerns for a heightened risk of wildfires. In 2018, fireworks were eliminated due to concerns for wildlife.

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