The Toronto Santa Claus Parade…

2006 Parade up closeI love a good parade and fortunately, Toronto has the best.  Our annual Santa Claus Parade. 

My memories of the parade are some of the earliest I have.  I remember seeing the parade for the first time on our neighbour’s black and white television (which was a unique household appliance at the time).

The parade became the unofficial start of my Christmas season, along with fighting with my brothers over who got first crack at the newly arrived Eaton’s catalogue.  Much blood and hot chocolate was spilled in those days.

As we got older and less wiser (and more cynical) we stopped believing in Santa Claus and dismissed the annual Parade as “just for kids”. 

And then purely by chance and through friendship I fell back into the parade’s orbit and have stayed there for the past twenty five years.

Alfie looking relaxed on parade dayMy friend Alfie was appointed General Manager of the Parade.  Unlike most of us who go through multiple careers in our lifetime, Alfie has had only one job – working on the parade.  And through the years he had progressed steadily up the ranks from sweeping the floor to designing and building the floats.

And now, he had deservedly been appointed to the top position.  Suddenly he had all kinds of new responsibilities, dealing with budgets, a board of directors and the media. 

I never appreciated how large and complex the organization of the Parade was until I became personally involved.  In addition to the twenty plus floats, there are over a thousand costumed marchers and twenty four bands.  Add to this, dozens of greeter clowns and hundreds of celebrity clowns and you have a massive enterprise.

This is made even more amazing by the fact that apart from Alfie and his crew of designers and builders most of the people involved in making the parade happen are volunteers.  I know, I am one of them.

In the early years I was a Parade Marshal responsible for a section of the parade which usually consisted of a float, marchers and a band.  Marshals are responsible for herding all of the marchers out to the street and getting everyone lined up in a specific order.  When the parade is underway Marshals make certain that things in their section run smoothly.

Every once in  a while things happen – a dog crawls under a float and refuses to come out, a marcher or band member becomes ill or a float breaks down.  And when something happens we just deal with it, nothing stops the Parade.  By the way the best way to get a dog out from under a float is by offering it a hot dog.

After a few years of being a marshal Alfie asked me to be a special marshal to make certain that things flowed smoothly past the television cameras.  As large as the crowd is along the parade route, the television audience is even larger as the parade is broadcast on Global coast to coast and the parade had to look its absolute best – marchers in straight lines, spacing correct, bands playing and children smiling and waving on the floats. 

It all makes for theatre on a grand scale.

Celebrity Clowns on the prowlAfter a couple of years as a special marshal Alfie asked me to take over as Head Marshal which I did for over ten years.  For the past few parades I have been helping out with the celebrity clowns – who are mostly high ranking business executives who pay for the privilege of clowning around and in the process help raise $200,000 a year.

And just now as I am putting the final touches on this posting, Alfie just phoned to sadistically let me know that a few tons of candy are arriving at Santa’s secret workshop.  This is the candy that the celebrity clowns will be handing out on Sunday afternoon and sometime between now and then it will have to be unpacked and loaded into the specially made float that holds it.

To get details on the parade route and times check out their website.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.