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The band keeps on playing

Legion Community Band will strike up for 40th time at the Salmon Fest parade

Around 9: 45 a.m. on Canada Day, an unlikely band of engineers, educators, realtors and retired folk will congregate for the 40th time at the Steveston Salmon Festival.

They will be limbering up their lungs, loosening their lips and making last-minute adjustments to their uniforms.

They are the Richmond Legion Community Band and they're celebrating their 40th birthday this year.

No matter the weather, no matter how few makes their number, the legion band has been a fixture at the festival for the last four decades.

And this year, their big "4 - 0," the band will once again strike up as an integral part of the annual Salmon Festival Parade.

"Rain or shine, we will be there," said percussionist, Larry White, who thinks his first Canada Day parade with the band was 1984.

"And there's been some monsoons in the past, I remember them well."

For the first 30 years of their part in the parade, the band used to march the route, which back then began on No. 1 and Francis roads.

However, as is the case with most Legion bands, time and old age catches up and they were forced to enlist the help of Aheer Transport, who generously offered the use of a trailer.

"It's quite strenuous work marching and playing at the same time and, for many of us, it's just a bit too much," said White.

Next week, though, the band - formed back in the spring of 1973 by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #5 - is likely to be the biggest its been in the parade for many years.

"The number does tend to fluctuate all the time, due to a number of factors, such as age, personality conflicts, disagreements over music and people just moving town," added White.

"But this year, we're up to 32 members, the highest it's been for a while I think and they should all be there at the parade.

"The band is very popular and we have eight new members this year and many of them are young; well working age, I guess."

One man - a founding member of the band, who struggles to recall their first ever Salmon Festival Parade - is Ian Michie, who jokingly describes himself as "ancient" and thinks he's about 86 years old.

"I was playing the trumpet and there was about 20 of us in the band," said Michie, a chemist at the pulp end for a forestry company at the time, and who later went on to serve as the band's president for 10 years.

"The band was the only real opportunity in Richmond at the time for me to play.

"And we always practised once a week on a Monday night at the legion."

Michie had to give up playing - he played tuba in his later years - four years ago, due to his advancing years.

But the band still practises once a week, and still on a Monday night.

"There's still very much a social element to the band, as you can imagine, both after practises and after events there's a few libations," smiled White.

"But it also keeps you sharp in the mind and is very mentally stimulating."

Aside from the Salmon Festival Parade, the legion band performs at various civic and private functions and takes pride of place, not surprisingly, at the Cenotaph for the Remembrance Day commemorations.

And they have their annual fundraising concert at the Gateway Theatre in November.

The band has also had the honour of performing at the opening of the Arthur Laing and No. 2 Road bridges and at the Seattle Seafair parade.

In 1976, the band became incorporated under the name J.H Thompson Band Society.

That incorporation was dropped in 1981.

Later, it was incorporated in 1996 under the name Lulu Island Music Society.

And in 2003, the name was changed to Richmond Community Band Society, under which it still operates.

If you'd like more information on the band and its activities, go to www.richmondconcertband.ca.

acampbell@richmond-news.com

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