By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
Joining in on the electric celebration of Coaldale’s rich history and sweet traditions, the esteemed Canadian Country music trailblazer, Ron Sakamoto, is set to lead as grand marshal of the town’s iconic annual candy parade at the upcoming 2023 Summer Fest celebration on Saturday, August 12.
Sakamoto is internationally recognized for his legendary concert portfolio, which includes shows and tours with some of the country music industry’s most preeminent acts, including Johnny Cash, Shania Twain, and Garth Brooks, to name a few.
Sakamoto is widely celebrated for his significant impact on the growth and development of the Canadian country music industry, and was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Award Hall of Fame in 2014, for his impressive and profound contributions spanning his over 50-year career.
In addition to leading the candy parade, Sakamoto will also be one of the four judges for Summer Fest’s first Battle of the Bands competition, which will take place Aug. 12 at the ATCO stage as part of the celebrations.
Sakamoto said “it’s amazing” to be returning to Coaldale, Sakamoto’s birth place, to lead this year’s Summer Fest celebrations.
“When I came down and I met with Mayor Van Rijn, we discussed what it was all about because I have never been a parade marshal before. They said this year had to do with celebrating agriculture which is perfect.” The theme of the 2023 candy parade is, “A Salute to Agriculture”, which Sakamoto said has deep roots for him and his family.
Sakamoto grew up for the first few years of his life on a farm, just south of Coaldale, before moving to a farm in Medicine Hat. “I am basically a farm boy,” he chuckled.
Although the rebranded 2022 summer event launched in 2022, the 2023 Summer Fest is inaugural in a sense, as this year’s event is the first summer celebration to take place since the Civic Square building was officially completed in November 2022. The Civic Square building is in many ways symbolic of the Town’s recent milestones as the municipality focuses in on cultivating community and third-place spaces while implementing practical strategies for sustainable long-term progress and investment in the growing municipality. Sakamoto praised the Town’s efforts.
“The counsellors and the Mayor, they have a great vision.”
Speaking on the outdoor gathering space currently in development behind the Civic Square building, he added, “I just think it’s fantastic. The big square going up to be built in the back, it’s going to be amazing for Coaldale.”
Coaldale Summer Fest officially kicks of on Friday, Aug. 11 showing the Super Mario Brothers movie in Millennium Park behind the Coaldale Sportsplex, where Town Council will be dishing up free pizza. The Deez Eats food cart will be on site to serve hot dogs, soda, and popcorn during the movie, which begins between 8:30 and 9 p.m.
The celebration will pick back up again on Saturday, Aug. 12 with a pancake breakfast fundraiser hosted by the Knights of Columbus.
The highly-anticipated Candy Parade will begin its route at R.I. Baker School, heading east, following 22 Avenue beginning at 11 a.m., where Sakamoto will pay homage to his agricultural roots and ride in a vintage horse and carriage during the parade, provided by Phil and Marilyn Still.
For artists competing in the Battle of the Bands, they will have the incredible opportunity to have their music heard by a Canadian music icon. Sakamoto is one of the four judges who will decide a winner of the competition, which will commence at 2 p.m.
For more information about Summer Fest 2023, “Salute to Agriculture”, including a full list of activities and their locations, please visit: https://www.coaldalesummerfest.ca/.