In a city best known for theatrics, nothing says the start of spring like a bevy of swans making their way into the water.

That’s what happened in Stratford on Sunday, as thousands of people took in the annual Swan Parade.

“I don’t think this cold weather kept very many people away,” Aleesha Anaya told CTV News as she waited for the swans to emerge. Once they did, a cavalcade of pipes and drums led the birds toward the Avon River.

Stratford Swan Parade

While the swan-themed festivities started on Saturday, the weekend’s feature event was in jeopardy until just a few hours before it happened.

The Avon River had received unexpected ice cover toward the tail end of the week. If the ice didn’t melt, it wouldn’t be possible for the 21 swans to walk into the river.

Stratford Swan Parade

It wasn’t until Sunday morning that the call was made: The ice was gone, and the parade could go ahead. The weather was cold, but that didn’t stop either the swans or the crowd from doing their part.

“If swans can handle it, so can we,” said Brenda McQuaker, who was attending her second parade.

The swan parade routinely attracts onlookers from around southern Ontario and beyond. Organizers said they were aware of visitors from Michigan and North Carolina at Sunday’s festivities.