One of the most beautiful parks in Red Deer’s tremendous parks system is Coronation Park. Bordering on Waskasoo Creek on the east side of the downtown area, it is marked by some magnificent stands of trees interspersed with broad expanses of grass. Parts of the park are so picturesque that it has become one of the most popular wedding photo sites in the City.
The history of the park goes back to May 1937 with the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother). There were major ceremonies organized by the City and the School Boards on Monday, May 12 to celebrate the grand event. There were parades through the downtown area to the City Square (now City Hall Park). There were devotional services, addresses by the politicians, ceremonial drills by the militia and pageants by local school children. An estimated 2500 people, more than 80% of the residents of the City, turned out to witness these celebrations.
The day was capped with a special tree-planting ceremony at 8 p.m. in a small park on the east side of Waskasoo Creek, next to the Ross Street Bridge. Raymond Gaetz, the first mayor of the Town of Red Deer, planted a weeping birch and formally dedicated the park. This was followed by another tree planting by the Major H.L. Gaetz Chapter of the I.O.D.E. More trees were planted by local members of the Girl Guides, Rangers and Brownies.
The small park became known as Coronation Crescent, because of the curve of the creek on the west side and the crescent curve of Waskasoo (45th) Avenue along the east side.
In the spring of 1953, there were again significant celebrations organized in the City for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. A full, day-long program was set for Tuesday, June 2nd. Unfortunately, the day was marked by very heavy rains. Consequently, all the events were moved indoors to the brand new Red Deer Arena.
Nevertheless, more than 2000 people turned out to watch the ceremonies. There were parades by the military, R.C.M.P., Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. The Girl Guides were also given the special honour of presenting their colours to Canon G.W. Lang. There were songs by local school choirs and the Red Deer Choral Society. There was a lengthy address by Colonel Douglas Harkness, a former teacher in Red Deer. The rest of the day was marked by an indoor grandstand show, concerts, movie showings by Red Deer Film Society and fireworks after dark.
The tree-planting ceremony for the park on Ross Street was postponed due to the rain. On Sunday, June 14th, Major H.L. Gaetz and Major Verner Sinclair Chapters of the I.O.D.E. planted the new ceremonial trees. The local Girl Guides planted flowers in two adjoining flower beds.
The whole park area, extending from 45th to 46th Avenues, which had been generally known as Woodlea Park, was now officially renamed Coronation Park.
In the spring of 1977, to commemorate the Silver (25) Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne, a spruce tree was planted near the earlier ceremonial trees. A bronze plaque, mounted on a large rock, was added to publicize the significance of this new tree.
On May 20, 2003, the Mayor, some members of City Council and a local troop of the Girl Guides conducted a ceremonial planting of a spruce tree to mark the Golden (50) Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. There was also an unveiling of a special bronze plaque to commemorate the royal anniversary.
Although the historical interpretation sign by the grove of trees includes mention of another ceremonial tree planting for the Diamond (60) Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 2013, there does not seem to be a special bronze plaque by a tree to commemorate that anniversary.
However, for the Diamond Jubilee event, a photo of the Queen, on her visit to Red Deer in June 1990, was displayed on the City Hall Park side of City Hall.
Michael Dawe is a Red Deer Historian. His column appears on Wednesdays.