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Raymond football great honoured by hometown

Posted on July 6, 2023 by admin
Herald photo by Al Beeber Honorary parade marshall Lloyd Fairbanks and wife Jackie lead the Raymond Rotary Club's annual July 1 parade on Saturday.

By Al Beeber
Southern Alberta Newspapers

During his illustrious 17-year Canadian Football League career, Lloyd Fairbanks didn’t make it home often to Raymond for the annual July 1 parade and Stampede.

Canada’s national holiday is a special day for Raymond which doubles or triples in size on the July 1 weekend as families hold reunions with loved ones who return for the big day.

On July 1, Raymond transforms with residents proudly displaying Canada’s flag on their homes and lawns throughout the community. The parade doesn’t just attract the hometown crowd and former residents – many drive in from other communities for the festivities and special atmosphere.

Fairbanks, who played in his first Grey Cup game with the Calgary Stampeders during his last season in the CFL, retired before the 1992 season.

On Saturday, Fairbanks had the privilege of leading the Rotary Club of Raymond’s Canada Day parade as honorary marshall, riding in a carriage from the Remington Carriage Centre in Cardston with wife Jackie.

The parade, on a sweltering morning, started off in front of the Raymond Stake Centre on a long route that would take it down Broadway – the town’s wide main street – with people in chairs filling every inch of real estate on boulevards and sidewalks to see the floats and in the case of young children, grab the candy being thrown liberally by parade participants.

With the Raymond High School Jazz Band and the Raymond Canadians providing two staples of the parade, residents had a lot to hear, cheer for and see.

And at the top of the list was Fairbanks, who played not only with the Stampeders but also the Hamilton Ti-Cats and Montreal Alouettes in his illustrious career that began in 1975.

During his first eight years with the Stamps, Fairbanks was named a Western Division all-star three times and a Canadian all-star twice. In 1982, he was named the Schenley Award finalist for the West division as the CFL’s most outstanding lineman and was also awarded the Mack Truck award, chosen by his fellow league offencie lineman as the CFL’s best at that position.

On Saturday, Fairbanks was humble as he spoke about the parade marshall honour while waiting for the parade to begin.

Fairbanks, a Raymond native who was born in 1953 and has lived back home since 1988, appreciates the significance of the honour of leading the parade.

“Most people are from Raymond who get to be it so you understand the gravity of it all,” said Fairbanks.

“It’s good to see people,” he said of the weekend and homecoming.

“Being on the first of July it’s Canada’s birthday and everybody makes time for it.”

On July 1 when he was in pro football, he missed about 15 or 16 years of the Stampede. And with the Calgary Stampede in early July, the CFL team was often on the road this time of year, Fairbanks recalled.

During his years away, the town didn’t change a lot, he said, until about the last 10.

“It was pretty much 3,000 from when it was founded until 10 years ago. And the same people,” he laughed.

“Baby-boomers are coming back, people have discovered it from out of town and it’s a nice place to live.”

Rotarian Val Boehme said the service group has organized the parade since it started in the 1930s.

And it’s a huge undertaking for the Rotary Club.

“It’s our big event of the year. It’s a service and it doesn’t cost anybody anything. It’s just part of our town celebration.

“This is a big year with the final rodeo at the Stampede grounds,” said Boehme.

Boehme said the town doubles in size for the July 1 weekend with between 8,000 and 10,000 people coming to the town.

“The communities from around us support us,” as well, said Boehme.

One Lethbridge family told the Herald they come to Raymond every year for the parade which they said is something special.

Various dignitaries were among parade participants including Coaldale mayor Jack Van Rijn and others who waved to the crowd from vehicles.

July 1 marked the last day the Stampede will ever be staged at the town rodeo grounds.

The site will soon be home to a new high school with demolition of the grandstand to be started shortly.

But the Stampede will live on thanks to the donation of 14 acres of land at the northeast corner of Raymond by Ron Heggie and his family.

The Stampede was first staged in 1902 under the direction of town founder Raymond Knight who donated the land for the rodeo.

The present grandstand is considered to be the oldest continuously used in the history of the sport.

The new location for the rodeo will east of Highway 845 between Railway Avenue and 500N.

 Stampede president Robert Heggie said Saturday the first two performances of the rodeo were among the best he’d seen in the last 40 years and he expected the final event to be just as good, if not better.

Several stipulations came with the land donation including that it can never be used for anything except rodeo or other recreation.

“If the rodeo some day fails, they can put ball diamonds on it, they can put anything recreational that will benefit the community,” 84-year-old Ron Heggie told The Herald in April.

Seating for spectators will have to be built at the new location because the existing grandstand can’t be moved due to its condition.

“They’d probably pick it up and it would just crumble,” said Heggie in that interview.

          

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