Yesterday was the day the swans of Stratford have been looking forward to for months. The day they would be released back into the Avon River.
And the whole town celebrates.
The swans have been a part of Stratford's history since 1918 when a pair of Mutes were gifted to the city. And in 1967, a pair of Royal Mute Swans from the Queen's herd were sent over as a Centennial gift. From these are now about 20-odd swans who have their wings clipped so they can't fly too far away. The swans are gathered and housed in a spacious pen during the winter when the river freezes over and cared for by volunteers.
First, we'll take a walk downtown
where various business have decorated swan topiaries
Stratford is a theatre town with a Shakespeare Festival every summer.
This is the main Festival Theatre (there are three other smaller venues)
but, it is time to walk further along the river front... towards the area with the food trucks and activities to keep the kids entertained
Many people staked out their spot an hour or so before the 2pm parade start.
This parade is all about the swans - they are led to the water's edge by the Stratford Police Band
But, there is always someone who likes to be first and doesn't care about orderliness, like this Chinese Goose who lives with the swans. Most years, she is first out the gate, well ahead of the band. Maybe she doesn't like bagpipes?
For some reason there was a long delay. It can't be easy to round up a herd of swans and in the end it seemed a few were missing. I wondered where the lone black swan had gone. Finally, they came waddling around the corner and many of those who weren't holding up cameras and phones were applauding the stars
A few people set up on the other side of the river where they were suitably rewarded with a swim past.
The whole parade lasts about 10 minutes, but totally worth the 75 minute drive to see it.
A previous post, from 4 years ago, with video can be seen here