Toronto Santa Claus Parade
by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams
Here Comes Santa…
It’s Sunday morning and our friends Ross and Cathy have invited us to go with them and their four year old daughter to watch the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. We met them at their home and then went with them to their church for the noon service. We decided to take one vehicle as we knew that parking was going to be a premium in downtown Toronto near the parade site. Since it was later in the day, we were going to view the parade at its end, at Front Street and Church. Getting there was going to be a challenge. The Don Valley Parkway had been closed earlier in the day due to fatal traffic accident. Compounding the closer, it was likely one of the busiest days in Toronto this year. There were three major events being held, a Toronto Raptors game, the Eastern Conference CFL Championship game (Argos vs. Winnipeg) and, of course, the Santa Claus Parade. Fortunately Ross was an old hand at traversing the back roads of east Toronto, so we made it to downtown Toronto fairly easily. Finding a parking spot was another matter completely. Because we had arrived later in the day, all the prime spots had been taken. After much driving around and muttering we found a parking lot with some empty spaces. The lot was several blocks away so we had a fair distance to walk before we would meet up with the parade. As we walked towards Church Street, several floats passed us. They had already completed the parade route and they were on their way back to storage. The closer we got to Church, the denser the crowds. To get to the corner of Front and Church we had to manoeuvre our way through the crowds. Front and Church was where the parade groups split. The floats and marchers continued straight on Front while the bands turned south onto Church. I needed to be right at the corner to see all of the rest of the parade. I wanted to take as many photos as possible, but was not an easy task with so many people in front of me. I managed to work my way close enough to get a few decent pictures…
What a Parade!
The Toronto Santa Claus Parade is one of the oldest and largest in the world. The first parade was on December 2nd, 1905. According to the official parade website the first parade was “a publicity stunt to herald Santa’s arrival at the Eaton’s store”. The Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade lasted until 1982 when Eaton’s felt they could no longer continue sponsoring the parade. Several businesses rallied to save the parade and it has continued that way ever since. Each float has a banner (on wheels) announcing which business sponsored it. The theme on each float varied, but usually incorporated some brand identification within or on the float. The structure of the parade was very well organized. There were very few spaces or delays between each float and band. Once I was able to get to the intersection I was able to see the structure of the parade. The set up seemed to be fairly consistent, the float banner, the float, marchers and then a band. Interspersed amongst these were clowns and other entertainers. Some of the corporate sponsors included: The Brick, A & P, Lowes, McDonald’s, Sears, and Toys R Us, to name a few. It is certainly great to see so many corporations participate in such a wonderful Toronto event! It would be impossible to accurately describe in words sound of the bands or the excitement of the floats and marchers. I'll let my photos tell you the story. Where's Santa?
Off in the distance we could hear the jingle of bells and the jolly “Ho-Ho-Ho Merry Christmas”. We knew Santa was just about here! Then we could see his sleigh being pulled by his reindeer with Rudolph leading! Santa was waving and talking with everyone he could. He even saw a Chinese TV station broadcasting from the crowd and he wished them Merry Christmas in Chinese. The crowd cheers Santa and waved wildly at him. Once Santa’s sleigh had passed, the crowds started to break up. Cathy had already darted into a close by Second Cup store and had reserved seats for us all. It was a good thing too, because the store quickly filled up with parade goers. We drank our coffee and hot chocolate amongst the parade crowd. All were talking about the different colourful floats they had seen and the wonderful music they had heard. While we were finishing our drinks, some of the members of the Burlington Teen Tour Band came into the store. The team, which was formed in 1947, has been performing and entertaining all over North America. I spoke with one of the chaperons and asked how many events they had participated in lately. He told me that over the past 2 days they had been in 3 parades. He told me they had reduced their schedule this year because they were traveling to Pasadena to participate in this year’s Rose Parade (and then they were going to play in the Disneyland New Year’s Day Parade. It all sounded very exciting and I am sure the Teen Band will have a great time! From the Second Cup we found our way back to Ross’s vehicle. Along the way we watched city employees and parade staff clean up the aftermath of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. Everything had to be tidied up for tomorrow’s work day.