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New Westminster anvil tradition continues

One of the more "unique and quirky" Royal City traditions

One of the Royal City’s longest traditions continues to pack a punch.

The Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery carried out its annual 21-shot anvil salute at Queen’s Park Stadium on Victoria Day. The salute to the memory of Queen Victoria (who named New Westminster) is a tradition that’s been taking place annually since the late 1800s.

“That was one of the first Victoria Days in a number of years that we haven’t been watching clouds or rain coming. It was beautiful,” said Archie Miller, the group’s historian. “The day was really, really nice. Everything went well.”

Mayor Jonathon Cote and Lt.-Col. Dave Vernon, commanding officer of the Royal Westminster Regiment, were honorary members of the battery for the day and helped the battery to fire anvils.

“It was a lot of fun,” Cote told the Record. “I have watched the event for many years. I have always wanted to do the traditional light-off. I think it’s one of the more unique and quirky traditions in our city, but one that makes New Westminster the place it is.”

Cote, firing the anvil for the first time since being elected mayor, discovered the power of the anvils firsthand and jumped at the blast.

“It was an interesting experience. It was my first time to participate in the ceremony. Although I’ve been many times and certainly been aware of how loud it was, it was a different experience being that close to it, that’s for sure,” Cote said. “Everyone warned me ‘you are going to feel it, it’s going to blow you back a bit’, but I still was not quite prepared for watching it all explode in your face.”

Along with Victoria Day salute, the Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery has performed salutes for royal visits and on special occasions, such as the Olympic torch run in 2010 and the opening of the Anvil Centre downtown in 2014. The group will be firing three shots at May Day, which is being celebrated on Wednesday, May 20 (today) in Queen’s Park Stadium.

Members of the Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery have some interesting titles, including the swabber off (who cleans the surface of the anvils), the powder monkey (who handles the powder into positons), the blower up (who tends the forge), the toucher off (who set the explosion), the right and left hand hoisters and assistants (who place the anvils in position), the timer (who times the one-minute intervals of the salute) and the chalker up (who keeps count). The group also includes a medical officer, historian, adjutant and captain.

Some attendees at Monday’s anvil salute noticed a GoPro attached to the lighter rod, which belonged to Global TV.