An RCMP member in red serge follows the SuperKids vehicle; lights flashing and inching forward at a crawl. Behind the officer is a large group carrying signs and banners. Flags can also be seen flowing in the cool wind under the overcast sky. At the end, a fire truck also has its emergency lights engaged, slowly establishing the end of the group.
This is main drag - or Second Street, as it's more formally known - Brooks, Alberta late on a Tuesday afternoon. The reason for gathering? To re-affirm the strong ties in a community known by the moniker "the City of 100 Hellos."
March 21 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and every year, local groups in Brooks organize a Unity Walk event open to the general public. This year, the Unity Walk began at Veteran's Park near City Hall, travelled north on 2nd Street, East on Cassils Road, then back south to the Leisure Centre. Once at the FlexHall, youth sang O Canada, enjoyed refreshments and were entertained with dances from the Francophone Association.
(You can see my images of this amazing event here)
The Walk itself is a culmination of many months worth of work. An online awareness campaign, proclamation at City Hall, and visits to Grade 5 classes in Brooks also take place, leading up to the big day. This year, the organizing committee created a banner featuring the faces of hundreds of local youth. The Many Faces of Brooks banner was unveiled at Veteran's Park. Mayor Barry Morishita and Karen Kallen (representing Bow River MP Martin Shields) spoke, then the group of approximately 80 people began the walk.
I've been covering this event for the past few years, and the energy of people coming together is electric. It feels like we sometimes take for granted how special our community is to host so many diverse cultures. We can boast having citizens from every continent (with the exclusion of Antartica, but we're working on that), and events like the Unity Walk remind us that we are better together.