Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Culture: The Shriners Parade

The flags of all the nations where the North American Shriners are active were carried behind an iconic miniature car from Scarborough, Ontario in the Shriners Parade in Toronto, Ontario on 6-July-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Within the course of an hour, the same street played host to a motorcade carrying the Queen of England away from a public appearance and to a Shriners Parade. From probably the most formal environment in the entire world, it went to a notoriously informal environment. Where else could that happen except on University Avenue in Toronto?

The Drum Corps of the local Rameses Shiners group played "It's a Small World After All" in the Shriners Parade in Toronto, Ontario on 6-July-2010

I didn't head downtown to see the Shriners Parade, but realizing that it would be taking place within a block of where I was located after seeing Queen Elizabeth II in just an hour, it just made sense to stay. If there's anything that can be counted on in a public appearance of the Shriners, it's fun and visual spectacle.

The Morocco Shriners from Jacksonville, Florida brought their bucking vehicle to the Shriners Parade in Toronto, Ontario on 6-July-2010

As Freemasons, the Shriners are a somewhat insular private group, but their primary purpose, the support of hospitals for children, is a very public and worthy cause. As one of their slogans goes, "No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child." They are a group ultimately committed to public service. I wasn't surprised when a Shriner offered me a Coke as we all waited for the parade to begin--I declined but offered to take their group picture.

One of the things the Shriners are known for are their distinct red hats, and this walking "Fez" was likely the largest in the parade in Toronto on 6-July-2010

The Shriners had come to town for their annual convention, so the parade featured not just the local Rameses Temple members from Ontario that are a fixture in local parades, but groups from around the continent. While groups from the northeastern United States were especially prominent, Shriners from as far away as Florida, Texas, and Alberta also had sizable contingents in the parade.

The Boumi Shriners from Baltimore, Maryland combined the middle eastern theme with the miniature car tradition to create these magic carpets in the Shriners Parade in Toronto, Ontario on 6-July-2010

The Shriners have local organizations, but certain themes pervade all the groups. The middle eastern imagery is universal; almost all the groups had an "Oriental Band" performing in the parade. Miniature cars are a common activity; variations went from Indy Cars to stocks cars to flying carpets. Trains, outhouses, and clowns--basically anything a child might find funny--appeared again and again. There were unique entries in the parade, though--a leaping jeep, a double-ended car, a Ghostbusters replica, and a Blue Brothers police sedan were among the highlights.

Which way were they going? A double-ended car made its way down--or maybe up--University Avenue in Toronto, Ontario during the Shriners Parade on 6-July-2010

A motto of the Shriners is "Having fun and helping children." They certainly demonstrated that they knew how to have fun during their parade on Tuesday.

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