Staff shortages at the Victoria International Airport may have prevented the Canadian Forces Skyhawks parachute team from piling into a plane and jumping out over Topaz Park on Friday, but the team was still in good spirits on the ground.
Greater Victorians may be slightly less familiar with the aerial team than the legendary Snowbirds stunt flying team. But this group, featuring members from different branches of the service across the country, has an equally eye-popping show and performs twice in the city over the Victoria Day long weekend.
Team member Master Cpl. Christine Kuizema, who has lived on the Island about 10 years and is a member of the Gold River-based 4th Canadian Rangers Patrol Group, described a Skyhawks spectacle.
“We put on a show and bring it right down to the ground – 6,000 feet and below – it’s just really cool parabatics and canopy stacking, and we’ve got the smoke and the flags so it’s a lot more interactive,” she said.
The show lasts about 15 to 18 minutes and once on the ground the team mixes and mingles with the public, especially the kids, who love to learn how the team packs its chutes, Kuizema said.
Round 1 sees Skyhawks included in the sunset ceremony Saturday (May 21) at the Highland Games in Topaz Park, which starts at 7 p.m. The team moves its landing point to the legislature lawns for Sunday, when it performs early on in the noon to 5 p.m. schedule.
Fellow Skyhawk Master Cpl. Kazz Gallant, who hails from New Brunswick, has been to town before and actually played soccer in past on the turf at Topaz. She looks forward to performing in front of a large audience for the first time in a few years.
“We’d love for as many people as possible to come out and see it, it’s really cool,” she said.
Kelly Kurta, executive director of the Greater Victoria Festival Society, gushed about the return of the events.
“I’m terrified and thrilled at the same time,” she said. Given that all the events are free, it wouldn’t happen without the partnerships built with the City of Victoria, the province and corporate sponsors.
The fact the Skyhawks were holding their media event at Topaz was not an accident. Kurta said post-pandemic the major festival organizers have started collaborating on a number of fronts.
Long seen as the kickoff to the summer festival season, the Victoria Day weekend this year sees a return of not only the Highland Games (8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday) and the noon to 5 p.m. musical performances at the legislature Saturday and Sunday, but the 122nd Thrifty Foods Victoria Day Parade.
Seventy five entries are signed up for the parade, which gets underway at 9 a.m. from Douglas and Finlayson streets and heads all the way down to Belleville Street. That’s about three-quarters capacity, said Kurta, noting that 25 U.S. bands are missing this year due to various costs and testing protocols.
The parade does, however, feature “the largest military contingent we’ve ever had over 600 military personnel, including the Northern Rangers, Lord Strathcona Mounted Troop and their beautiful carriage, and we’ve got our amazing Canadian Forces Skyhawks parachute team. It’s going to be incredible, people want this,” she said.
The parade is followed by Gordie Dodd’s One World Music Fest in Centennial Square from noon to 5 p.m., with cultural performers, food and family friendly activities.
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