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Saturday, April 1, 2017

All in the Avon River for the annual wiggle waddle swan walk in Stratford

   One-Tank Trip for April 1-17
   (c) By Jim Fox

   It’s time for the annual wiggle waddle walk in Stratford.
   All the world’s a stage in this “Festival City” as 20 celebrated swans, cooped up for the winter in a cozy barn, waddle their way tomorrow (April 2) to the Avon River.
   With much pomp and circumstance, they’ll be accompanied by pipers and watched by thousands of revellers, many of whom are adorned in swan hats and regalia.
Stratford’s famous swans make the wiggle waddle to the Avon River. (Terry Manzo, Stratford Tourism Alliance)
   “The parade is really eccentric, a massive hoot – perhaps honk – and deserves to be experienced,” said Helen Lovekin of Ontario Tourism.
   “Local restaurants and merchants also get in stride with a competition for the best swan flora arrangement. In a town that loves drama, this is a dashing spring celebration,” she added.

   In a salute to spring, Stratford offers this weekend of family fun “as our graceful, yet feisty feathered ambassadors parade to the Avon River,” said Cathy Rehberg of the Stratford Tourism Alliance.
   The weekend Swan Parade Celebration is highlighted by the parade of the iconic feathered friends.
Swan-themed fun means dressing the part.
   “They know it’s time to get going when they hear the sounds of the Stratford Police Pipes and Drums who lead the way amid curious on-lookers,” Rehberg said.
   Grand parade activities take place tomorrow from noon to 3 p.m. along Lakeside Drive (between Waterloo Street and Morenz Drive).
   The actual procession is at 2 p.m. in a swan tradition that dates back to 1918 when the first gift of two of the critters was given to Stratford by railway worker J.C. Garden.
   The herd now includes 20 white mute swans that take part in the waddle walk and the free spring ritual event has become a Stratford tradition for many families.
   “Thousands of people look forward to attending this quirky fun family event,” Rehberg said, noting it is a collaboration of Civic Beautification volunteers, city staff and tourism partners.

   Happening now
   Today’s events feature the city’s downtown heritage streetscape dotted with decorated topiary swans.
Swan topiary fills Stratford for the annual ritual.
   Visitors are invited to take part in the Swan Quest, a search for a favourite decorated topiary swan for a chance to win shopping gift certificates.
   Join a Guided Swan Walk to learn more about the life of the swans, view their winter quarters and popular nesting spots and take a stroll along the riverbank.
   The walks take place today at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and on Sunday at 12:15 p.m. from the William Allman Arena.
   Hop aboard free horse-drawn carriage tours to learn about Stratford’s history from noon to 3:30 p.m. both days from Memorial Gardens on Ontario Street.
   Street performers include Kobbler Jay who entertains from noon to 4 p.m. while the swan mascot poses for photos at the gardens at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
   Sunday’s activities include entertainment under a circus-tent-style outdoor main stage for the Craig Douglas comedy juggler show and the Keepers, about animals and conservation.
   There’s an indoor children’s play zone from SpringWorks and Gallery Stratford.
   Entertaining clowns, a community colouring mural and swan hats offered free of charge add to the fun while street food trucks cook up tasty meals and there’s a charity barbeque.
Street performers are part of the swan weekend in Stratford.
   Free parking is available in the Stratford Festival parking lot at the corner of Lakeside Drive and Queen Street and along Lakeside Drive east of Front Street.
   There’s limited accessible parking on site from the entrance at Water and Morenz Streets.
   Details: visitstratford.ca/swans; 1-800-561-7926

   Stratford transforms
   It’s going to be a “year of transformation” in the city, said Cathy Rehberg of the Stratford Tourism Alliance.
   The new Market Square to open on July 1 welcomes people into a pedestrian friendly space.
   “It’s a place with trees with places to sit and relax with a good book, meet friends, enjoy lunch from a nearby eatery or wile away the day,” she said.
   Just a short walk through Queen’s Park to Confederation Park brings you to a new butterfly-shaped pollinator garden creating a welcoming home for bees.
   Check out what’s happening at visitstratford.ca


Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca

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