One of the most stunning events in Ontario is just around the corner.
Stratford’s Swan Parade takes place on April 6 and 7 and is said to be the ideal weekend of family fun.
Things kick off on Saturday with the Swan Quest, a search for decorated swans in Stratford’s heritage district. There are also free horse-drawn carriage tours and family brunch options available as well. Kids can even get pics take with the mascot of the Parade, BJ The Swan.
The focal point of the weekend is Sunday’s Swan Celebration. It officially announces the arrival of spring along Lakeside Drive (between Waterloo St. and Morenz Dr.) from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. The Swan Parade itself marks the return of swans to the Avon River beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Here’s the rundown of events:
Saturday April 6
- The businesses of downtown Stratford present the Stratford Swan Quest where distinctive topiary swans are decorated and displayed in front of downtown businesses celebrating the arrival of spring. Shoppers are invited to find all twelve swans and nominate their favourite for the People’s Choice Award and a chance to win a $50 City Centre gift certificate. Ballots are available at each shop with a decorated swan and at Stratford Tourism Alliance where completed ballots will be received until 4:00 p.m. Sunday, April 7.
- Guided Swan Walks are available where stories about the birds that have become synonymous with Stratford are shared as you view the swans in their winter quarters and see popular nesting spots. Tours begin at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the William Allman Arena. Tickets are $7 per person and are available online for tours on Saturday & Sunday at visitstratford.ca or at Stratford Tourism Alliance.
- Free horse-drawn carriage rides will be offered courtesy of the businesses of downtown Stratford from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. (Sat & Sun) departing from Memorial Gardens, Ontario Street. A heritage enthusiast shares intriguing stories and unique architectural features along the way.
- Swan Weekend Family Brunches: Participating restaurants offer special menus and features to mark the Swan Weekend on Saturday and Sunday. Menus and features are available at visitstratford.ca/swans
- Pose for photos with BJ, the official swan mascot at 12:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. at Memorial Gardens on Ontario Street.
- Catherine Wright Designs presents a Spring Planter design workshop at 1:00 p.m.
- Innkeepers Dinner: Chef Max Holbrook of The Parlour recreates a historic menu reminiscent of dinner in the Huron Tract Inns during the late 19th century. Music, short snappy speeches, silent auction and fun. Proceeds support the Stratford Perth Museum. Tippling begins at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. at Knox Church.
Sunday, April 7
- Bring your family to the Swan Celebration from 12 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. along Lakeside Drive. Enjoy The Grand Parade, an original puppet show commissioned for Stratford and presented by The Other Hand Puppet Troupe, children’s entertainer Madame Buskerfly (on stilts!), ventriloquist show, Festival City Twirlers, street performers, face painting, bouncy castle, swan hats and crafts for children. A charity BBQ, free popcorn and Tim Hortons coffee will be available.
- Enter a theatrical world of fantasy as you try on Stratford Festival Costumes and watch Stage Combat demonstrations inside the Kiwanis Community Centre from
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
- A Swan photography exhibit by photographer, Erin Shipley offers a charming view of nature and a chance to meet the artist.
- At 2:00 p.m., the Swan Parade, organized by the volunteer Civic Beautification and Environmental Awareness Committee, begins as The Stratford Police Pipes and Drums lead the swans from their winter quarters along the parade route to the Avon River.
Free parking is available in the Stratford Shakespeare Festival parking lot, corner of Lakeside Drive and Queen Street and along Lakeside Drive east of Front Street. People are encouraged to walk or ride their bicycles to the event.
A video preview of the event is available here.
For more information, and a Swan Quest Ballot, check out visitstratford.ca, or call 519-271-5140 or 1-800-561-7926.