Flags, costumes, dancers, marching bands, cheers and Lions as far as the eye can see: It must be the International Parade of Nations at the Lions Clubs International Convention.
Each year, Lions from as many as 130 countries participate in the annual procession on the second day of the convention, a tradition dating back to the early 1920s. The parade is an opportunity for Lions to display their enthusiasm for the association and their national heritage. Many Lions don traditional dress, colors or costumes representing their native lands for the march. They carry their countries’ flags with pride and sometimes sing and dance along the route, as well.
Lions-sponsored bands, floats and officers also join in the fun. Throughout the decades, officers have led the way in everything from horse-drawn carriages to floats. Past International President Earle W. Hodges, who served from 1930 to 1931, led the 1931 convention delegates and marching bands down the streets of Toronto in a purple and gold Studebaker car, courtesy of the Lions Club of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, the first Lions club established outside of the United States.
For Lions, the parade celebrates the bonds of friendship and displays the great reach of Lions’ service around the world. Anne Ford, a Lion from Trinidad, calls the parade her best memory from the 2014 Lions Clubs International Convention in Toronto. “It was nice to see all the traditional costumes of Lions from all the different countries,” she said. “We all gathered in one location and recognized that no matter what color, creed or race, we are all here to serve.”
But as always, Lions like to insert a little bit of fun and friendly competition wherever possible. Delegations may participate in contests to win cash prizes for the best floats, bands, uniformed marching delegations and precision demonstration units.
The parade is often the largest procession many host cities have seen in years, and with thousands of participants, it is truly spectacular to behold. Fellow Lions, convention guests and residents line the streets to exchange greetings and cheer on the delegates.
At the 1924 Lions Clubs International Convention in Omaha, Nebraska, a sense of excitement filled the air as some 2,500 Lions from across the U.S. and Canada took part in the celebratory procession. The event became even livelier when Lions from Colorado began a snowball fight at the end of the parade. The Colorado delegates had brought in loads of snow by railway car from the mountains back home and couldn’t resist sharing a mid-summer surprise—a first for Omaha in June.
Parades grew larger over the years as clubs formed across the globe. Marching bands became a staple and floats a common sight, with usually at least one float taking the shape of a lion. About 15,000 Lions marched in the parade during the 96th International Convention in Hamburg, Germany, in 2013. Today, there are so many participants and performances, the procession lasts several hours.
The parade has been and remains a highlight of the convention each year, placing the exuberant camaraderie and global spirit of Lions on display for all to see.
Dear Lions of the World,
Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; Orlando, Florida, USA; Dallas, Texas, USA; Istanbul, Turkey; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Nice, France; racial tension in many parts of the world.
Why is it happening? When will it stop? How much is enough? These are questions all of us are asking ourselves, and no one is providing any answers.
As the global leader in humanitarian service, a central focus is on providing for those less fortunate through a variety of service programs at the international and local level. Over the past two years, as part of our centennial service challenge, we have served 100 million people around the world. We are proud of our selfless service to others.
But as much as service is our focus, it doesn’t completely define who we are and what we stand for in the world community. One need only review excerpts from Lions Clubs International Purposes to gain a true understanding of our focus beyond service:
In my inaugural address delivered June 28 in Fukuoka, Japan, I spoke the following words:
“As we look at our future, there is another new large mountain which is arising for our world to conquer, and Lions International is the one to help the world climb this new mountain – and that is international relations. The Lions of the world are one family, focused on the goal of providing for others, and creating peace and understanding among the people of the world. We must strive to leave a legacy of world peace, world health, world safety, and world happiness.”
In February 1945, Lions’ founder Melvin Jones gathered with leaders of other national groups to meet with Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affiars, Archibald MacLeish, to discuss forming a United Nations. In April of that year Lions headquarters asked clubs to hold a United Nations week to show support for the initiative.
In that spirit, and as we approach our 100th year of humanitarian service, I ask Lions around the world to hold a day of reflection during the week of July 25th. Set aside this day to reflect on how your club can work with local community leaders to nurture peace, lessen violence that has affected so many of our communities, and foster understanding among all peoples.
As we pause to reflect, please keep the victims and families of the recent tragedy in Nice, France in your thoughts and prayers.
Let us be the example of how people of different races, cultures, religions and diverse backgrounds can come together for a common cause.
Chancellor Bob Corlew
All roads lead to Toronto. At least they did for Lions in 1931 when Canada became the first country outside of the United States to host the Lions Clubs International Convention.
Canada had embraced the fun and service mindset of Lions since 1920, when the first club, the Border Cities Lions Club, was founded in Ontario. The same year, Harry A. Newman, a lawyer from Toronto, joined the executive board of Lions. After serving in several leadership posts, in 1924 he became the organization’s first international president from outside of the United States. By the time the 1931 convention took place in Toronto, Lions clubs had spread across Canada, from Halifax to Vancouver.
International President Earle W. Hodges, an American from Arkansas who served from 1930 to 1931, encouraged Lions to head in droves to the convention, reminding members that Canadian Lions had always been faithful conference attendees at conventions held in the United States.
“It’s going to be the most enjoyable and the most instructive convention we’ve ever had!” the Lions board of directors told members in LION Magazine. To ease the minds of some anxious travelers, the magazine also featured a primer on how to travel to Canada. It included instructions for crossing the border by auto, boat, plane and—just in case— bicycle.
Lions showed up in record attendance. More than 6,000 Lions came to Toronto for the annual conference, which was held July 14 to 17. Throughout the four-day event attendees were treated to performances from musicians, dancers and opera stars. They took trips across the bay, sang songs, attended parties, laughed with old friends and joined in the parade. One evening’s big event, Canada Night, featured an astounding 700 performers.
Like all conferences, the fun was mixed with business. Board and departmental meetings continued as usual, and Lions founder and Secretary General Melvin Jones got a laugh when he jokingly offered to read his 200-page report on the state of Lions from the podium at the convention hall. The highlight of the report: Lions had added 333 clubs during the previous year, bringing the total to 2,500.
Lions Clubs International has grown by leaps and bounds since the 1931 convention, when clubs could be found only in United States, Cuba, China, Mexico and Canada. Lions have spread around the world, establishing more than 46,000 clubs in over 200 countries and geographic areas. And each summer, representatives still gather together from near and far for the annual international convention to reunite, reflect and build excitement for another year of service, fellowship and fun.
Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) offers a variety of funding options to support various stages for disaster relief operations, including Disaster Preparedness, Emergency, Community Recovery and Major Catastrophe Grants.
For districts impacted by a natural disaster that has affected at least 100 people, including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis, Emergency grants provide up to US$10,000. Lions district governors may apply for disaster relief funds to help meet immediate needs such as food, water, clothing and medical supplies. LCIF typically awards more than US$2 million in Emergency Grant funding each year.
In June 2016, LCIF awarded 5 emergency and disaster relief grants totaling US$50,000. These grants are addressing immediate needs in:
Texas, USA, District 2-S4
$10,000 for flood relief
France, District 103-C
$10,000 for flood relief
New Mexico, USA, District 40-N
$10,000 for wildfire relief
California, USA, District 4-L1
$10,000 for wildfire relief
West Virginia, USA, District 29-C
$10,000 for flood relief
Please consider making a donation to LCIF’s disaster fund today.
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