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Community in parade organization

Plenty of planning and effort goes into Steveston's big July event

The old saying goes that "Everyone loves a parade."

But just ask Marcie Gray, and she'll tell you that parades are not only just fun to watch roll by. Actually being in them is a great experience, as well.

And she should know after being involved with helping prepare the Steveston Community Society's float for the past six July 1st parades at the Steveston Salmon Festival.

"Being involved with the parade makes such a difference," said Gray who is tasked with leading the decoration of the float. "It is a lot of work and time, squeezing things in during your regular life, but the rewards are phenomenal.

"Just being part of the community and making greater connections with people. I feel like part of a big team, and that makes me love Steveston that much more."

Plans usually start coming together in January. And each following month the volunteer team spends a few hours sourcing decorations and other needed items.

And when June comes, the efforts are ramped up to get all the pieces assembled and ready for the big day.

Gray got involved after a friend recommended her and she has never looked back, making sure each July 1, the 25 by eight-foot trailer bed is re-designed to match the theme of that year's Salmon Festival.

Last year, the float was accompanied by a flash mob that was part of the Me to We youth theme.

"That was something we kept under wraps," Gray said. "And before 2010, we had an Olympic theme. Then prior to that, we had a 'go green' theme."

This time around, the float will accommodate a small garden to reflect the theme of cultivating our past and tilling our future - a link to the establishment of the Steveston Educational Garden beside the Japanese Cultural Centre.

"I have a fabulous carpenter who built some beautiful arbors. And there will be planter boxes for it," Gray said. "And the thing about the garden is that it will be very accessible. That's one of its goals. So, we will have planters at different levels for kids, seniors. It's going to be very beautiful."

Traditionally, that means it will be bright and colourful. "It's always fun picking the paint colours," Gray said. "Every year I go into a store and buy the paint and the people in the store always stop me and ask, 'Are you really sure you want something that bright?' But they don't know I'm getting it for a float which is usually bright and crazy.

"But they usually understand right away when I tell them what it's for."

The float also has the distinction of being the first one on display along the parade route as it snakes through Steveston Village and surrounding streets.

"It's the best float because it's the first in the parade," Gray said. "So, if you're on the float you get to be at the very beginning. Then you can get off at the end and watch the rest of the parade go by," Gray said.

And that makes for the best of both worlds.

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