This past weekend, with the Easter holidays, the closing events of WSSF, the Whistler Cup and still more snow on the mountains, there certainly wasn’t a lack of activities to occupy residents and visitors of any age.
The Easter holidays have a history of being a busy weekend in Whistler. In the 1970s the list of Easter activities offered by the Chamber of Commerce and Garibaldi Lifts was an impressive one for such a small town, including fireworks, Easter egg hunts and various skiing events such as skiing displays and obstacle and costume races. Residents and visitors to the area alike could enjoy a torch light parade ending with a bonfire and hot dog roast in the parking lot at the bottom of the mountain. The weekend also included dancing and live entertainment at local establishments such as the Christiana Inn, L’Apres and the Mt Whistler Lodge. For those who chose to attend, all Easter services were held at the Whistler Skiers’ Chapel on the mountain, Canada’s first interdenominational church.
Events varied from year to year. Some years advertised prizes for an Easter Bonnet contest and in 1970 the Vancouver Garibaldi Olympic Committee was actively promoting a bid for the 1976 Olympics and used the popular weekend as an opportunity to get more people on board with a slide presentation on the bid at the Roundhouse.
One of the most popular events over the Easter weekend was Whistler’s own Easter Parade. When thinking about parades in Whistler the first to come to mind is usually the annual community parade on Canada Day. During the 1970s, however, the Easter Parade was not to be missed.
Traditionally an Easter parade was an informal and somewhat unorganized event in which people dressed in their new fashionable clothing in order to impress others. Irving Berlin wrote “Easter Parade”, a popular song inspired by the Easter parade in New York, in 1933 and a film by the same name starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland was later constructed around the song in 1948.
Though the Easter Parade in Whistler may not have been designed to showcase anyone’s new finery, it did include carefully thought out floats and some illustrious leaders. In 1971 the 52 floats were led by Miss Vancouver Ardele Hollins, Miss PNE Judy Stewart and members of the RCMP. The following year the parade was led by none other than then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
Whistler’s parade was open to anyone who wanted to participate. Interested parties were told to “plan a float, come as a marching group, or just get dressed up in a crazy costume and join the fun. The more the merrier!” Community groups and local businesses, as well as individuals, created elaborate floats and costumes such as the Jolly Green Giant and the original gondola. The 1974 parade was captured on film by the Petersens and can now be watched on our YouTube channel as part of the Petersen Film Collection along with other unique moments in Whistler’s history.