For those of us who were alive during the 1980s, when you think of Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion Tour you likely hear St. Elmo’s Fire playing in your head.
It felt like you could not turn on the television without hearing the song and seeing Rick Hansen rolling across in the promotions for his world tour to raise funds for spinal cord research. We watched his progress on the news each day.
This song and those images will forever be embedded in our psyche. As Rick Hansen prepares to return as the 2023 Williams Lake Stampede Parade honorary parade marshal, Williams Lake Stampede Parade organizer Willie Dye knows the large presence Hansen remains for many of us.
Dye provided an emotional update on the parade for the mayor and council at their regular meeting on June 6, 2023.
He was choked up and even came to tears as he described the plan to have the Cariboo Chilcotin Youth Fiddle Society, along with some exchange students coming from Halifax, Nova Scotia, involved in the parade.
While not walking in the parade itself, they will sit in an area near Save-On Foods as spectators and play St. Elmo’s Fire from alongside the parade route as Rick Hansen and his convoy go by.
The students from both sides of the country have been learning the song, in honour of Hansen. Interestingly, Cariboo Chilcotin Youth Fiddle Society organizer Ingrid Johnston said many of the youth did not know who Rick Hansen was.
The Man In Motion Tour was not a thing they have heard of, and they didn’t know why there was a wheelchair in front of the Williams Lake Visitor Centre.
“We forget we’re not just teaching them history,” said Johnston of the educational discussion for the group.
The group’s drummer John Christoffersen apparently was able to help bring life to their learning with a story about how when the actual Man In Motion Tour was to come through town, the community band was supposed to play St. Elmo’s Fire for him as he rolled by. However Rick Hansen was going so fast, they missed getting to perform for him as they couldn’t catch up.
The students apparently really enjoy playing the song and it will likely be a big hit with the parade crowd.
Dye said the youth might also be performing at an event to highlight Hansen himself on June 29 at the Williams Lake Visitor’s Centre from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Hansen’s friend and musician Don Alder will also be performing and Dye said anyone with Rick Hansen memorabilia can bring it to the museum for the event to honour Hansen and meet the legend himself.
Dye went on to discuss the less pleasant parts of organizing the parade, like some of the associated costs, which continue to climb.
The bill to insure the Williams Lake Stampede Parade nearly stopped organizer Willie Dye’s heart.
“It was quite a thing,” said Dye of seeing the $5,300 cost, which he said is about $1,500 more than last year.
The parade itself is on track, according to Dye, with 47 entries in the parade, and he hopes to hit the 70 entry mark, though he said like many things, it is becoming more difficult to find volunteers.
“I think we’ve got to protect our volunteers and our events because they’re a wonderful thing,” said Dye.
The Prince George Bagpipe Band will be in the parade, as will the Williams Lake Community Band to provide some music in the event as well.