If the sun had been shining, Russ Townsend and Steve Williams predicted as many as 300 car collectors would have brought their jewels to display in Fort Langley today.
But, due to the damp weather, there were fewer than 30 cars and collectors who turned out for a brief, and socially distanced – for the most part – drive through the historic village in what the two car enthusiasts labelled the unofficial May Day parade.
For the second year running, the long-standing May Day parade and related festivities in downtown Fort Langley had to be cancelled due to COVID-19.
Anxious not to let the historic holiday go unmarked, this pair of friends once again spread word among Lower Mainland car clubs – via email and phone – inviting fellow collectors to take a “safe” drive along the traditional parade route late Monday morning.
“We couldn’t have a full parade because of the pandemic, so we’re putting on a drive through car show,” said Townsend, who’s been the May Day parade marshall for 20 years.
Walking up and down Mavis Avenue – in front of the Fort historic site – and checking out the waiting participants, Townsend predicted “spectators in town will love it.”
“We’re going to show you a little bit of chrome, a little bit of hot rods, and just some real cool cars,” Williams added.
There was at least one New Westminster couple overjoyed by the unexpected car show.
They were among a few dozen on the village streets who stumbled across the “parade,” and this visiting pair marveled at their good fortune.
They had chosen to flee their home in New West, which was overwhelmed by smoke after an overnight fire destroyed an old commercial building near the Columbia Street SkyTrain station. Looking to escape for a bit, the car lovers headed for Fort Langley. Little did they know luck was on their side, and they’d arrive just ahead of the 11 a.m. parade start.
Bob and Berla McLaughlin – along with their little dog, Sophie – said it was one of the few times they’ve taken part in an car events since COVID hit, and they were glad to be out, despite the rain.
Early in the pandemic, the Surrey couple had joined other members of the BC Hot Rod Association for a few drives to long-term care homes and hospitals to help boost morale and say thanks to all the frontline staff battling the coronavirus.
But since then, the McLaughlin’s 1930 Model A two-door coach has pretty much sat idle.
“We’re please to finally get out and fire up the old car and go for a drive,” said Bob, who noted they bought their car some 20 years ago, fully restored. All he’s had to do in the years since is keep it up, add a few pieces of replacement chrome here and there, and drive it to events such as this ‘unofficial parade.’
Watching the rain bead off his Model A, he concluded: “It’s a good day.”
Last year, in part due to short notice and the onset of the pandemic, the “impromptu” drive attracted about 75 cars. This year, as Williams explained, hundreds were expected – if hadn’t been for the rain.
This would have been year 99 for the May Day festivities that have, in past, included a parade, May pole dance, and a variety of community festival in the village.
Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese was among those in attendance for the second year running, and thanked the drivers for coming out and showing what he called “a little bit of community pride” under difficult pandemic conditions.
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