Did you know that cherries are the first tree fruit to ripen and Turkey is the world’s largest producer of the juicy red fruit crop? In Canada, 90% of sweet cherries are grown in southern B.C. with southern Ontario producing the remaining 10%. Exports to Asia, the United States and Europe account for a large share of the approximate 10,000 tons of sweet cherries grown in B.C. annually.
Cherries feature prominently in Chilliwack’s agricultural history with productive cherry orchards planted by early settlers to the area. But how did Chilliwack deal with an abundant cherry crop and increased competition from B.C.’s interior region in the 1920’s?
That was the question the Chilliwack Board of Trade (now the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce) faced in 1927 as the crop’s abundance became evident. What to do with all the ripe cherries?
Chilliwack pharmacist and head of the Board of Trade, Harry Hipwell is credited with the creation of the first Chilliwack Cherry Carnival held in 1927. Running for nearly thirty years the Cherry Festival was heavily advertised throughout the region and well attended attracting visitors from Vancouver, New Westminster and places in between. The BC Electric Train was on board, offering reduced fare to transport carnival attendees to Chilliwack’s Cherry Carnival.
Held at the old fairgrounds on Spadina Avenue, the well-attended event also included canoe races, dancing, horse racing, lacrosse and basketball games, and foot races. And what Cherry Carnival would be complete without the crowning of a Cherry Carnival Queen!
Crowds of thousands lined Yale Road and Wellington Avenue, some hanging out of windows to catch the mile long Cherry Carnival Parade as it wound through Chilliwack’s downtown core. The Vancouver Daily Province Newspaper reported a crowd of 10,000 parade watchers on July 3, 1950.
Cherry Carnival Parade
(all photos courtesy Chilliwack Museum and Archives)