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A presidential surprise

Wife shocks Hyack president with horse and carriage ride in New Westminster's international parade
Hyack Festival Association president Gavin Palmer was excited when his wife Jacke

It was a few minutes before parade time and Hyack Festival Association president Gavin Palmer was a nervous wreck because he couldn’t find the car he was supposed to ride in and wave to the crowd.

“Where’s my convertible? I can’t see it,” he asked an organizer in a bit of a panic. “I can’t find my car anywhere.”

Just then he spotted his wife Jacke, dressed in a Queen Victoria outfit, coming from behind in a horse-drawn carriage for them to ride in at the head of the Hyack International Parade on Saturday.

The large, open white carriage had fancy turn-of-the-century ornaments and red roses for decoration. The black horses were dressed to the nines and so was the driver in his Victorian-era outfit.

“My jaw dropped,” said Palmer. “That was one fabulous surprise … Everybody else in the darn city knew but I didn’t.”

The idea had come to Jacke, who owns a horse, during a dinner party in October when some suggested it to her knowing her love for the equine species.

“I know people that do that,” she said to herself and so she contacted Rocking Horse Carriage in Aldergrove and started putting it all in place.

One problem: Horses haven’t been allowed to participate in New West parades in more than 15 years. Jacke’s heard lots of reasons why, but she’s not sure of the real explanation.

“It always frustrated me that New Westminster didn’t have horses in a parade and I wanted to be the first lady to bring them back,” said Jacke.

To pull it off, she had to get permission from several city hall departments, the police and, of course, from the Hyack board. But since she wanted it to be a surprise, the board had to discuss it when Palmer wasn’t around.

There were several times, Jacke said, where someone almost spilled the beans.

“My God, that was the hardest part. I was so excited about it, for me to keep a secret like that was huge because I wanted to share it with him and the planning with it, I was so excited,” said Jacke.

So when Gavin turned around and saw her sitting in the carriage, his expression was worth all the hard work.

“Oh, gosh yes,” said Jacke. “It was incredible [to see Gavin’s reaction].”

The Palmers had a grand time rolling down Sixth Street, and so did the audience as it got a look at the nattily-attired horses.. “You should have seen the kids’ eyes,” said Gavin, whose one-year term as president has come to an end.

Said Jacke, “Horses have to be in parades. They love it, they’re as big a showoff as anyone.”