Your kid can’t have a party right now. They can have a birthday parade.

Birthday parades are starting to replace parties as families and friends look to celebrate in a socially distant way.

In Yellowknife on Tuesday morning, Josephine Copple was surprised by a dozen cars driving by with signs wishing her a happy seventh birthday. In Fort Smith, a similar celebration is planned for Ollie Freund this weekend.

“It was awesome,” said Copple, reflecting on the surprise. “I really didn’t know it was going to happen. It felt pretty great.”


The Copple family planned to be in Victoria over Josephine’s birthday but, like so many other things, that was swallowed up by the Covid-19 pandemic.

While Josephine said she was disappointed the trip had fallen through, she was happy she got to do “a lot of fun stuff at home.”

A car participates in a birthday parade for seven-year-old Josephine Copple on March 24, 2020

A car participates in a birthday parade for seven-year-old Josephine Copple on March 24, 2020. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

“This morning my mom made me a scavenger hunt to find my birthday presents,” she said. “Then I had delicious chocolate pancakes. Tonight we’re having a movie night and we’re going to order Domino’s Pizza that’s gluten-free, and we’re going to watch Frozen II.”

Josephine’s mom, Jessica, said she was grateful for the community’s efforts to make her daughter’s birthday special in such a trying time.


“There were a lot of people we didn’t even know,” said Jessica, “strangers that came out to support her on her special day. And that touched my heart.”

The birthday parade was organized by Samantha Stuart, who got the idea from a viral post in an Illinois community Facebook group.

“I thought it would be so much fun,” said Stuart, who found out about Josephine’s birthday when she asked online if anyone had a special day coming up.

In a Facebook event, Stuart invited Yellowknifers to “decorate and hold signs out of your window, honk, wave, walk by, drive by, bike by … all while practising safe social distancing.”


As an added bonus, Stuart said, preparing for the parade gave kids and parents something to do inside.

A photo submitted by Samantha Stuart of her children (and cat) making birthday signs for Josephine.

“Hopefully we can reuse the signs for more birthday parades over the next few days and weeks as well,” Stuart added.

In Fort Smith, Presley Freund had seen the same viral Facebook post. She decided to organize a surprise birthday parade for stepdaughter Ollie’s ninth birthday on Saturday, March 28.

“I think this such a great idea,” she wrote to members of a Fort Smith Facebook group, inviting residents to drive in front of their house on Highway 5 at around 11am.

“She gets really, really, overly excited about things, so we’re assuming she’ll be running around, jumping, being crazy, and screeching,” Freund said to Cabin Radio.

“We’re going to play outside at about 10:30am and be at the end of the driveway, and people will be driving by yelling happy birthday.”

Freund has found it hard to explain to Ollie why she can’t have a regular birthday party this year. She’s hoping the parade will leave a lasting impression instead.

“She’s going to feel so loved,” said Freund. “It’s definitely going to make her day.”