What better way to kick off the fast-approaching holiday season than to see Santa riding by on a float! I mean, aside from that fully decorated tree you’ve had set up in your living room since Halloween?
After two long years, the annual Manitoba Hydro Santa Parade is set to kick off this Saturday, November 19, just in time for all this fresh snow and the Grey Cup on Sunday! And can it be anymore obvious that Santa is a big sports fan than to see the big guy heading out early at 3 pm this year to accommodate the Jets home game at 6 pm? Hopefully we’ll see him there!
The earlier start time is great for families. And getting there early is always worth it since the block parties on Portage Avenue are back as well from 2 to 3 pm. Along with a new start time, the parade is also heading along a new route this year. It will start at Portage and Main, then head down Portage Avenue before turning south along Memorial Blvd. for a short stretch before ending up on York Avenue at Memorial Park. So definitely get there early to grab a great spot!
The Manitoba Hydro Santa Claus Parade is our city’s longest running free community event. Established in 1909, it began after Eaton’s Department Store held the first Santa Claus Parade in 1905 in Toronto. The grand event was so successful that in 1909 Eaton’s started parades in Montreal and Winnipeg. Getting chosen to walk in the Eaton’s parade was always the highlight of every child’s year!
Sadly, due to rising costs, Eaton’s organized its last parade in 1965. After that, Captain George Smith of the East Kildonan Fire Department, on behalf of the Winnipeg Firefighters Club, bought the parade from Eaton’s for $1.50 and started the community-based format that has continued to this day. From 1966 to 1975, the Winnipeg Firefighters worked very closely with volunteers from schools around Winnipeg to successfully carry on this holiday tradition.
In 1975, the Winnipeg Jaycees, now JCI Winnipeg, were asked to take over the stewardship of the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade exclusively until 2004. It was in 1987 that the JCI Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade began its relationship with the Christmas Cheer Board and began collecting donations and non-perishable food items along the parade route each year since.
In November 1998, the City of Winnipeg hosted the Grey Cup. That year, Manitoba Hydro worked with event organizers to bring a Grey Cup parade to downtown Winnipeg. Building on its huge success, Manitoba Hydro continued to sponsor an annual night-time parade in downtown Winnipeg. This event continued from 1999 to 2005 and was called the Power Smart Festival of Lights Parade.
When the Grey Cup returned in 2006, JCI Winnipeg, the City of Winnipeg and Manitoba Hydro joined forces, rolling their individual events into one large and very successful Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade.
The next year, in 2007, JCI Winnipeg and Manitoba Hydro agreed to a joint-title sponsorship to hold the Power Smart/JCI Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade, a night-time, lit parade.
In 2012 a board-led, independent, community-based not-for-profit, the Winnipeg Parade Committee Inc. was created to guide and produce the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade and to ensure the sustainability of the event for many years to come.
The tradition continues every year with the Manitoba Hydro Santa Claus Parade.
As mentioned, The Manitoba Hydro Santa Parade is once again working with the Christmas Cheer Board. Please be sure to bring something for the bin, whether it’s toys, clothes or non-perishable food. The Cheer Board will be collecting donations in the Manitoba Hydro Building atrium. Volunteers for the Cheer Board will also be walking in the parade to collect items as well, so it couldn’t get any easier to be generous during this season of giving.
The block parties will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Sport Manitoba — which is also the parade Grand Marshall this year — will be hosting a very active block party between Fort and Garry Streets, Manitoba Advocate will be hosting one between Carlton and Hargrave which will hopefully bring back its popular games like snowman bowling and winter coat hula hooping, while title sponsor Manitoba Hydro will host their exciting party between Edmonton and Carlton Streets.
After running the parade all these years, the organizers have all contingencies covered. Each block will have a designated section for accessible seating for anyone who needs assistance. Restroom stations will be set up along the parade route, which any parent can tell you is essential when you have so many excited children around! The organizers kindly ask that anyone in the front rows remain seated so that those behind can still have a great view. And yes, pets are like family, but the organizers ask you to please not bring them along.
Visit mbhydrosantaparade.com for details as well as a map of the parade route. There are also fun activities you can download, like themed scavenger hunts and a word search. Don’t enjoy the cold? You can tune in on CTV. But if you do attend, please don’t forget to bring a tin for the bin! This is the season of giving, after all.
Photo credit mbhydrosantaparade.com