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Celebrate New Hamburg's 150th birthday

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New Hamburg At Its Finest, On Parade

By Paul Knowles, President, New Hamburg Board of Trade

October 01, 2008

Photograph of Paul Knowles aBoard the Argo; courtesy of Teresa Brown

It was a moment of sheer delight.

I'm talking about the moment when the Argo vehicle, on loan from ODG (with driver, because they certainly aren't foolish enough to hand me the keys), turned the corner at at the TD Canada Trust and headed east on Huron Street, and I first glimpsed the crowds of people lining the street, watching the New Hamburg 150th parade.

This, I thought, is what living in a small, friendly community is all about.

If you were at the parade, or participated in any of the events of our 150th anniversary - including Doors Open at seven sites in town - you already know what I am talking about.

If you didn't, sadly, that is your loss, and I suspect similar historic celebrations are unlikely to be held for another 50 or 100 or 150 years. At which point the Argo will be replaced by a vintage ODG Moon Rover -- yes, the local company really is currently involved in such a project -- and the guy riding in it is most unlikely to be me.

The New Hamburg 150th was one of those special, once in a lifetime experiences. Well, maybe twice - to be fair, a few people approached me during the day to reminisce about their participation in the parade celebrating the town's centenary (some even had photos) so there is a good chance some of those people riding, walking or watching the 150th events may be around to remember them, 50 years from now. Me, not so likely. So I am glad I was there this time.

It was pure small town heart. There were kids and grandparents, tractors and trucks, clowns and canines. Local businesses got involved; so did service clubs, schools and churches.

It is traditional that dignitaries ride in elegant open cars, so we shook up the tradition, with help from said dignitaries. MP Harold Albrecht drove the tractor he has restored himself. MPP Leeanna Pendergast, with good humour, agreed to ride in a spiffy golf cart. Mayor Wayne Roth was the passenger in a '65 Mustang -- a great set of wheels, I must say.

All took their place with great delight and lots of laughs.

I was riding in the parade because of my official capacity as president of the New Hamburg Board of Trade, but I also wanted to avoid doing a bad impression of Queen Elizabeth, riding in the back of some big car, waving to the multitudes. (The Queen apparently did not receive our request to attend, in time.)

It occurred to me that one of the most exciting local businesses right now is ODG, with their involvement in the space program, so I talked Joerg Steiber into lending us one for the parade, and I happily rode in that great local icon, an Argo.

I didn't get to see the parade en route, but I think I saw all the entries, as we were marshalled in the Sobey's parking lot.

There was a lot of living history in that pre-parade queue - the wonderful Grandview school float depicting a pioneer school; the Zion church float that took viewers through the entire history of that historic church in tableau; the business entries, from veterinarians to truckers to organic farmers to metal workers.

The kids, the clowns, the cars... it was fabulous.

When I agreed to be president of the New Hamburg Board of Trade this time around, I wasn't at all sure what I was getting into. Turns out, one of the things I was getting into was one of the most enjoyable parades I have ever seen.

That event - parade and all the special events - showed New Hamburg at its finest, led by local volunteers, involving hundreds of local people, celebrating the community we all call home.