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Vancouver becomes a Shriner's paradise

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Vancouver Sun

Vancouver becomes a Shriner's paradise

7,500 conventioneers and their families bring competitions, mirth and fezzes to town

John Mackie

Monday, June 24, 2002

Vancouver Sun
Richmond Shriner Ted Shale sits on a micro street rod.
The jazz festival had Gastown hopping, and thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses were at a convention at the Pacific Coliseum. But this past weekend really belonged to the hordes of Shriners who seemed to be everywhere you looked in downtown Vancouver.

About 7,500 Shriners and an equal number of wives and kids are in the city for the 128th Imperial Council Session, spending up a storm and spreading mirth among the masses with their wacky fezzes, colourful musical troupes and groovy mini-motorcycles and cars.

The mayhem spreads further around the Lower Mainland today, with a Shriners horse competition set for a 9 a.m. start at the Agriplex in Cloverdale, a Shrine Scots (bagpipers) competition at 9 a.m. at the Gizeh Shrine Centre at 3550 Wayburne Drive in Burnaby, and Shrine Chanters (choral groups) facing off at 9 a.m. at the Masonic Temple at Granville and 8th.

The official name for the mini-cars and motorcycles is the Shrine Motor Corps, and hundreds of them will be competing at 7 a.m. in the Molson Indy staging area on the south False Creek waterfront near 2nd and Ontario. The Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island will host the Shrine Oriental Band Competition at 10 a.m., which should be as visually exciting as it is musically (the bands dress up in Arabesque gear, with flowing robes and long, curly-toed shoes).

Vancouver Sun
The Oriental Band from the Gizeh Temple in Burnaby practices for competition Monday at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island.
Meanwhile, a Shrine Concert Band Competition will start at 9 a.m. at the Richmond Inn, 7551 Westminster Highway in Richmond. The Shrine Drum Corps competition will begin making a racket at 7 a.m, in Hall C of the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The most intriguing competition, though, looks to be the Shrine Clown Association Competition, where Bozos from Spokane to Panama City don their clown garb and do their thing. It starts at 9 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency, and like the other Shrine competitions, it's free and open to the general public.

The Shriners are expected to drop $28 million into the local economy this week. Much of it will be spent in Hall B of the convention centre, site of Shrine Marketplace. About 200 vendors have rented booths to hock their wares. You can apply for a Shriners Visa card, book one of five circuses that vie for Shrine Circus business, or purchase a giant acrylic American eagle and flag blanket for $45.

Woody Toma of Detroit was doing a brisk business in Shriner memorabilia Sunday afternoon, selling everything from Shrine coasters ($6) to belt buckles ($37), fez tassel holders ($18), ear rings ($9), and ties ($22).

Strangely, he didn't have any fezzes for sale, but he did have a display of elaborately decorated models you could custom order. Depending on how many rhinestones ("imported from Austria!") you want, a genuine Shriners fez could be had for $115 to $450.

The surprise success of this year's Shrine Marketplace has been William Lawson's micro-car booth.

Lawson's company, MicroVEH, offers two basic models, a mini-hot rod and a mini-sports car. The four-wheeled vehicles are slightly smaller than bumper cars, and are equipped with a raised motorcycle-style handlebar and seat. They can go about 22 km/h (up to 45 km/h if they're souped up).

"They'll carry up to 450 pounds. They weigh under 50 pounds. And they'll fit in the trunk of your car," said Lawson, who hails from Phoenix.

In his first day, he sold more than 100 miniature cars, at about $3,000 a pop.

Email John Mackie at: jmackie@pacpress.southam.ca or call him at 604-605-2126.

Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun

Further Reading:

The Royal Order of Jesters - The Shriners Secret Society Secret Society - 'Mirth is King'

The Shriners - The 'Krafty' Klowns

Freemasonry in Canada