By Gerald V. Paul
When The Camera Publisher Anthony Joseph toured the 110th Santa Claus Parade workshop this week, he was like a kid in a toy store, beaming with excitement like a mas man, ready for the road come Nov. 16.
Parade watchers can download the free Track Santa app off the parade website at www.thesantaclausparade.ca letting them pinpoint Santa’s location along the route. The parade starts at 12:30 p.m. at Christie Pits, goes east on Bloor then south on University Ave., finally turning east again on Wellington to end at St. Lawrence Market.
Thanks to a new partnership with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and more sponsors than ever before, the parade is larger and has an even bigger profile with 31 floats and 21 Bands. And, yes, people of Caribbean heritage are among the more than 3,000 volunteers. As for Caribbean bands in the parade? No problem, “call me,” said General Manager and Creative Director Alfred Iannarelli.
“I think it’s very successful because it’s for everyone. It’s for the kids of all ages. I go down the streets every year with the parade and I see the crowds, and it’s just – it’s Toronto,” said Iannarelli as he gave Joseph a tour of the 28,000 sq. ft. preparation building where builders, designers and sculptors are closing in on a year’s work on costumes and floats.
Iannarelli, “an unofficial Bajan” who loves vacationing in Barbados, noted that every part of Toronto is watching, adding it’s a great show.
“Families love it. Kids love it. They believe in these things and then, of course, there’s Santa, and that is the showstopper every year,” Iannarelli said.
The parade had humble beginnings. In 1905 Santa arrived at Union Station to make his first pre-Christmas Eve tour through Toronto, predating the famous Macy’s parade in New York City by almost 20 years.
The parade’s original sponsor was Eaton’s department store which didn’t survive but the parade endured through the Great Depression and two World Wars. Eaton’s staged the parade until 1982.
While the first parade was a one-man-show, it was enough to thrill the thousands of children who filled the streets to catch a glimpse of Santa. Later trumpeters and footmen were added.
By the way, despite shortages caused by World War II, parade designers managed to create incredible costumes.
Now, tech highlights for the event include the Track Santa app and the Santa Cam.
“The Santa Cam – two cameras attached to poles (not the North Pole) at the back of Santa’s float – will snap photos of the crowd throughout the route. Parade watchers can scour the Santa Clause Parade website after the day to find their grinning faces,” Iannarelli said.
Also new this year is the 5K Holly Jolly Fun Run on Nov. 16 starting at 12 noon and limited to 2,000 runners. All proceeds help support the parade. Details are on the parade website.
Iannarelli will take a well deserved rest after the parade – possibly in Barbados – and then get back to what he does gladly and naturally.