Community Stories

Marshalling: A parade doesn't run itself

Meet George Young, Parade Marshal for the Westerner Days Parade. With 59 Westerner Days Parades under his belt, it’s safe to say George is a parade veteran.

It’s 5:55 a.m. and a small crowd has started forming around a motorhome parked in the north east part of the Servus Arena parking lot. The street sweepers interrupt the sleepy stillness, making a preliminary pass to ensure the roads are clear of rocks and dirt. Five motorcycles are parked; their gray-haired riders are shaking hands and commenting on how it’s a great morning for a crisp ride.

It’s Parade Day in Red Deer; the kick-off event to start Westerner Days.

Up walks a man in a straw cowboy hat, carrying a small coffee urn; the glorious smell of caffeine wafting as he passes by. Setting the urn on the table in front of the motorhome, he quickly picks up his two-way radio handset and turns it on.

“Testing,” he says into the radio, but all that can be heard is the flatline hum of a dead battery filling the silence.

Meet George Young, Parade Marshal for the Westerner Days Parade. With 59 Westerner Days Parades under his belt, it’s safe to say George is a parade veteran.

“I started in 1959 putting up barricades when I first started with The City,” says George. As a former Public Works employee, he transitioned to Committee Chair, Parade Marshal and he’s been in the Marshal position since 1990.

George is one of many volunteers milling about the Marshaling area on this early morning. The volunteers are diverse, from retirees to teens, but all are happy to get right to doing the job they signed up to do. The preparation for this year started right after last year’s parade, where the committee met to discuss what worked, what went well and what didn’t. With their last meeting taking place last night, the committee confidently sets about the tasks required to make the parade run smoothly. 

George is a very busy man today, tending to the pressing matters at hand. “I gotta go,” he says and sets off like a man with a mission. George marches across the street to the float staging area to redirect a truck that has parked in the wrong spot.

When asked what is George’s most memorable parade, he’s hard pressed to come up with an answer because he’s never actually seen the parade, he’s always been behind the scenes in the marshaling area. “I see all the parts but I don’t see the finished product,” he says, chuckling.

“When we first started we had a lot of machinery companies showing off their latest combines and tractors. All the car dealers all showed off their new cars, none of them decorated. It was just kind of a commercial show.”

Retirement is on the horizon for George. When that day comes, Red Deer will have big shoes to fill.