CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — A group of newcomers have put hammer to nail to create a handful of floats for the upcoming Gold Cup Parade Neighbourhood Tour.
Participants of the Construction Association of P.E.I.’s Newcomers in Construction Program have been working away as part of their learning to create vibrant themed floats after the Gold Cup parade committee approached them for the unique project.
“So far, I think everything is going really smooth,” said Graham Hicken, program instructor for CAPEI.
“Honestly, I think we are ahead of schedule. I thought we would be right up to the 11th hour, but the crew in there, the newcomers I’m working with, you can give them direction and just let them go.”
The program has 10 participants working on the floats, most of which have immigrated from Southeast Asia. Some of the participants who joined the program had varying skills in construction and woodworking before joining. Most, however, did not.
“The Old Home Week stuff is very unique,” said Hicken.
“With these guys here, most of their backgrounds are in civil engineering, so they have some concept of how things work. But, when you throw them into this world here, some of them haven’t picked up a hammer before.”
The program aims to teach newcomers employability skills in the fields of construction, carpentry and architecture to help them secure full-time work, something student Bahai Nguyen worried about when he moved to the Island from Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam.
“I’m a newcomer, right? So, the best way to complete my settlement here is to find a job so I can sustain myself,” he said.
“I got some support from the PEI connective and met some great people there, and they introduced me to Sam (the program lead). I had an interview with him, and I realized this was the pathway for me and my career.”
While Nguyen had a background in the automotive industry before joining the course, his skills in woodworking were limited.
“Woodworking was my hobby. I owned some power tools and woodworking tools at home, so in my spare time I do a little bit of furniture work around the house, some from friends, but honestly I never pushed my woodworking skills this far,” he chuckled as he motioned to one of the floats.
Working on the floats for the parade has been a positive experience for Nguyen and the rest of the program participants, who were tasked with exploring the Island’s history to help with the float designs.
“Personally, I’m proud of it, very proud of our work,” said Nguyen.
“Beyond that, I really started appreciating the history. Before we came here, we really knew very little about the Island and everything besides Anne of Green Gables, so we come here and find out after there is a lot more history than just that story.”
The parade this year, set to start in two locations at 10 a.m. Aug. 20, will run a bit differently from previous years. Instead of the usual one-route parade through the spectator-lined streets of Charlottetown, the parade will be split into two short routes through Charlottetown neighbourhoods in a scaled-down fashion.
However, the Gold Cup parade committee hopes things will return to normal in the coming years.
“Most of the people are on this committee because they want to see the tradition of Charlottetown and Old Home Week continue,” said Derek Tweel, logistics and organizing committee member for the Gold Cup parade.
“It’s all about keeping that old Island tradition going, so were going to go back to the old ways as soon as we can. We want to see the streets of Charlottetown lined with people.
“This is just a little taste to keep them interested.”