The second half of the 20th century saw the first visit by Queen Elizabeth II, which attracted some of New Zealand’s largest parades.
Dressed for the Queen
In 1953 Auckland City hired a display artist with a staff of five to dress Queen Street for the royal visit. The display included 23 holly garlands, 920 electric lights (representing holly berries), 65 flower boxes with 62,400 artificial flowers, and thousands of illuminated cut-out crowns.
The 1953–54 tour by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip was the first time a reigning monarch had visited New Zealand. Throngs of excited people lined city streets and country roads and railway lines, waving British flags and cheering the couple’s progress through the country. By the tour’s end it was estimated that two-thirds of New Zealanders had seen their Queen. Subsequent royal tours have attracted crowds but never reached the same fever pitch.
After the All Black rugby team won every match on its 1924–25 northern hemisphere tour, the ‘Invincibles’ were given a victory parade through Wellington streets. Parades celebrating national or regional sporting success became more common.
Parades before provincial rugby’s Ranfurly Shield challenges became a tradition.
Mooloo parade not enough
In 2007 a Mooloo (Waikato rugby’s mascot) parade through Hamilton streets attracted 36 floats and a sea of cowbell-ringing supporters. They were there to cheer on their team in its defence of the Ranfurly Shield. Sadly for them, Waikato lost the shield to Canterbury. They had held the ‘log of wood’ for only one week.
Such was the success of the (Canterbury) Crusaders in the Super Rugby competition in the early 21st century that a victory parade through central Christchurch seemed to be almost an annual event.
When Team New Zealand won the America’s Cup for yachting in 1995, large victory ticker-tape parades were held down Auckland’s Queen Street and along Wellington’s Lambton Quay.
The first Santa parade was organised by Auckland’s Farmers department store in 1934. By the 1950s most cities held a Santa parade each year to launch the Christmas shopping season. Meandering through central city streets, they featured dozens of highly decorated and fanciful floats, delighting children and the young at heart. Santa’s float, attended by elves, came into view last.
Festivals often have parades as part of their programmes. They help to publicise festival events, and allow people to showcase their cultures – ethnic festivals often feature traditional music and people in indigenous dress.
Festivals are often used to promote local lifestyles. Napier has been particularly successful at this. As far back as 1913, its 30,000 Club (named for the city’s target population) began an annual Mardi Gras to attract visitors and new residents. In 1914 the festival’s parade stretched a mile and drew 20,000 people. Displays included a Māori waka (canoe), trade floats, and groups dressed as Native Americans and cowboys.
In 1989 the city began a festival celebrating its art deco architecture. Held every February, this includes an art deco-themed parade through city streets.
Cuba Street carnival
Begun in 1999, Wellington’s biennial Cuba Street carnival celebrates the city and its cultural diversity. The highlight is an illuminated night parade.
In the 1990s homosexual groups organised festivals to promote gay and lesbian pride and self-esteem. They included colourful Mardi Gras-style street parades. Auckland’s Hero parade along fashionable Ponsonby Road attracted hundreds of participants and tens of thousands of spectators. It featured scantily dressed ‘marching boys’, voluptuous drag queens, and female ‘Elvis Presleys’. Moralists slammed the parade for its blatant displays of sexuality and called for it to end. This happened after the 2001 parade made a financial loss.
Boobs on Bikes
A controversial parade in the 2000s was the ‘Boobs on Bikes’ event down Auckland’s Queen Street. It featured bare-breasted women riding on motorcycles and in open-top cars. Organised by pornographer Steve Crow, it promoted his annual Erotica Expo. Critics made unsuccessful appeals to city bylaws to stop it. The 2008 event was preceded by a march protesting against the parade.