June 26, 1946 was declared a holiday for the people of Mission. All so everyone could be part of the Mission Board of Trade’s (now the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce) Strawberry Festival. Its main objective was to promote Mission as the Strawberry Capital of Canada all while raising the much needed funds for the Mission Hospital.
The Strawberry Parade marched along Main Street, following a similar route to today’s Candlelight Parade and was such a success it became an annual event for years. It incorporated the crowning of the Strawberry King and Queen, the Soapbox Derby, dancing and baseball.
Special trains ran to bring festival goers from Vancouver and points west of Mission. In 1949, strawberries were even flown to England to be presented to George VI as a gift from Mission residents.
After the success of the “Wild Cat” Soapbox Derby held that first year; the derby became a franchise of the American Soapbox Association and soon drew bigger crowds than the Strawberry Festival, peaking at 20,000 in the mid 1950s.
By 1956, the Soapbox Derby stood alone as the main attraction, drawing in province-wide competitors, with over 200 entries. It ran successfully until 1974 where it took a break until 1999 and once again became an annual event in Mission’s event calendar. Now run by the Mission and District Soapbox Derby Association, race day this year is Saturday, Aug. 24.
Pioneers then…Pioneers now. The Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce continues to this day to connect, influence and build prosperity in Mission.