The artsy town of Stratford celebrates warm weather with the annual Swan Parade and Festival. This year marks 28 years of the tradition. Stratford is well- known for its beautiful swans on Avon River during the summer months.
— Sarah McCarthy (@sarahsnews98) April 8, 2018
Cathy Rehberg, marketing manager with Stratford Tourism says the event is popular because it’s unique.
“Thousands of people attend. Last year we counted over 8-thousand people who come to watch 21 swans march about a block and a half. So that I think is pretty amazing. It’s a way that people can be welcomed and enjoy it and of course on our Swan Parade weekend, everybody’s sporting a swan hat which makes everybody smile.”
The swans are a huge attraction and a big part of Stratford’s tourism. People come to attend all the way from the States, India, China and Italy-and those are just a few places to note.
Releasing the swans this year, proved to be a challenge for organizers. With ice still on the Avon River, it was a morning of decision. The city could not give permission to release the swans into their natural habitat due to the cold weather conditions. However, ice melted away just in time making an opening on the Avon River and the swans were able to swim home. The locals are always happy to see the return of the swans. Rehberg says the swans are part of the community.
“The people in Stratford really love the swans. It’s very much a part of our lives, people come and visit them everyday-we feed them lettuce and corn. And they’re really our official ambassadors in Stratford.”
The birds live right in front of the festival theater in the warm months, where many play-goers stop by to admire the swans. During the rest of the year, the birds stay in their winter homes with a heated pool.
Businesses participate in Swanquest every year as a part of the parade events. A dozen businesses took part this year including Treasures, a shop located on the main downtown street. Co-owner of Treasures Cathy Brubacher says it’s always great to see tourists out earlier in the year.
“We have been doing the Swanquest ever since it started, we do it every year. Definitely brings a lot of people into town, and it’s usually a good day for us. It’s fun to see people from all over Ontario come and enjoy the day.”
Although a chillier day then normal, the event never fails to draw a diverse crowd. The parade of swans continues to draw the attention of thousands of people from all over the world year after year.