It’s been a wild ride in the Williams Lake Stampede parade since 1972 for the Ball family, when they moved here from California with a love for parades and a passion for getting involved with their new community.
The Ball family, including Gene’s Paving, Blocks R US, race cars and more have brought excitement, fun and sheer surprise to crowds who flock to see the parade. What the family float will be is always kept a secret until the parade starts to roll.
The Ball family’s love for parades goes back generations, according to Lynn Ball, who said that their grandmother rode a Cat from Cousins Tractor where she worked, in the 1927 Hanford Homecoming Parade in Hanford, California.
“My dad Gene Ball’s family always rode horses in the parade and my uncle marched with a band in parades. We always loved to watch them, go to them and be in them,” she said.
“We were delighted when we moved to Williams Lake and found that the stampede parade was such a huge deal. When we got here my brother Dennis started high school and the school band marched in the parade; so did my sister Lori.
“When my dad started Gene’s Paving in 1976 what we really liked was that people put their brand new logging trucks and equipment in the parade,” she continued. “My dad started doing that, too.”
Fred Ball said that he often gets into just a little bit of trouble in the parade. “I sometimes stretch the rules a bit; one time we loaded the rock slinger with candy and shot it into the crowd,” he said.
“Another time we set up a float to look like we were building a wall, with tools and equipment and blocks, working on the wall while the float moved along. The surprise was that we had another fully loaded trailer hidden, with a finished wall on it. When our first float finished the parade we drove off, loaded up the second float, hopped on the finished wall, relaxed on the finished wall with beer cans and went around the parade again.”
The parade has always been a family affair, according to mom Dana Ball, who said that the kids, grandkids and friends were always involved. “My mom met a guy who loved parades and went along for the ride,” Lynn explained. “She blew up a lot of balloons!”
Dana also said that when it came to putting floats in the parade you had to think on your feet and go with the flow, stating that one year just before the holiday-themed parade started there was a torrential downpour. “I came running back to find water pouring off the palm trees on the float, soaking wet streamers and crepe paper and one very soggy little girl in a dripping grass skirt huddling under a pouring palm tree.”
For years, Lynn Ball has gotten up early on parade day to save space for her family to sit and watch the parade. “Our Williams Lake Stampede Parade is for all ages – from two to 92 and you wave and cheer whether you know the people on the floats or not.
“It’s a real sense of community in Williams Lake; whether you’re on a float or on the sidelines you’re happy to see everybody,” she said.
“It’s a true hometown celebration.”