Bands, floats and families reach for stars during Hamilton’s cactus parade


Published August 16, 2023 at 11:03 am


Donna Graham fondly remembers her youngest daughter, who was only a baby in a car seat, and her oldest daughter riding one of the floats at the Dundas Cactus Festival Parade about 30 years ago.

Time for her flew by so fast — now her daughters are in their 30s and volunteer with her alongside her husband at the much-loved annual tradition in downtown Dundas.

The 48th Dundas Cactus Festival Parade is bringing together the community near and far Thursday for the tradition preceding this weekend’s all-ages Dundas Cactus Festival, which started in 1975.

“The parade has history. It dates back a long time. What people value is it’s almost like a homecoming,” said Graham, the parade coordinator, in a phone interview with She has been volunteering for the free, family friendly event for about 30 years since her two daughters were small. “People schedule their holidays to be here for the parade.”

Graham recalls hearing from many families who tell her they came from various places to reunite during the parade, including 25 family members who met up at the event last year. “It’s kind of a generational thing. It’s been around so long. … it’s a nice family evening all on the street.”

The parade leaves the Driving Park at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 17. It travels south down Cross Street, east on Park Street, south on York Road, then west on King Street through downtown Dundas to Market Street, where it heads south to Mill Street.

This year’s theme is “Beyond the Stars,” which Graham said is open to interpretation. Participants created 60 floats inspired by anything related to the theme, from movie stars to outer space. Three judges will award prizes for floats created by residents and local businesses from Dundas and beyond.

Although there will be a Tiger-Cats football game the same night, Graham expects “a good crowd” of possibly 25,000 participants, the typical number of people the parade attracts. 

“It’s going to be a great parade as long as it doesn’t rain because we have a lot of really good bands coming,” said Graham.

The event will happen rain or shine, but will be cancelled if there is lightning. 

The Dundas Cactus Festival Parade route begins at the Driving Park in Dundas.

The Dundas Cactus Festival Parade route begins at the Driving Park in Dundas.

Graham said participants can expect lots of great bands coming from as far away as North Bay and Sudbury. Pipe bands from Dundas, Grimsby and Hamilton have united to play together to lead the parade.

The Blue Saints Drum Core, who have members from all over the province including North Bay and Sudbury, will be playing their drums, bugles and trumpets. The Hamilton Light infantry band, the Barr Band with its rockabilly tunes, blues band Trickbag and the Silver Leaf band (the brass section of the longtime band Preston and Scout House) and the Dundas Valley Orchestra are among other musicians entertaining people. The Teen Tour Band, comprised of around 100 young musicians, from Burlington will provide the finale performance.

The Dundas Concert Band will be playing as well beside Shoppers Drug Mart.

Volunteers will walk with the parade collecting a “Toonies for Tunes” to help to defray the cost of hiring the entertainment.

The following roads will be closed on Thursday, Aug. 17 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. for the parade:

  • Cross Street (Dundas Driving Park-Park Street)
  • Park Street (Cross-York)
  • York Road (Park-King)
  • King Street West (York-Market)
  • Market Street (King-Mill)
  • Mill Street (Market-Wellington)

“We’re all volunteers because we think it’s really important for the community,” said Graham, who works all year on the parade with a team of 10 volunteers. “It brings people together, lets people relax and have fun at no cost and with no expectation. They can just come to relax, hear nice music, see decorated floats and enjoy friends and family.”

She encourages people to show their support for local eateries during the parade.

Graham said the parade was named after the Ben Veldhuis Cactus Greenhouses, now closed, which used to be a fixture in Dundas. Dundas was known back then as the cactus capital of the world since the greenhouse had grown and even reportedly sold three million cacti a year to people all over the world.  

Dundas Cactus Festival runs all weekend

From Friday, Aug. 18 to Sunday, Aug. 20, the Dundas Cactus Festival will feature family entertainment and live music at Memorial Square between Hatt and King Street in downtown Dundas. 

There will be food and drinks. People are encouraged to bring cash for purchases. 

Strollers are welcome, but no pets are allowed (except for service dogs).

Click here for more information.

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