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Santa Claus, special guest to hit parade

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You better watch out, Santa Claus is coming to town -- downtown Winnipeg, that is -- on Saturday.

The 104th Santa Claus Parade will take over 16 blocks of Portage Avenue, with many activities beginning at 5 p.m. It starts at Portage Avenue and Young Street and features 96 floats, marching groups and mascots. It will take about 90 minutes to make it to the finish line on William Stephenson Way near Westbrook Street.

And the weather outside will be delightful: 3 C at parade time and 0 C by the time the entertainment starts at The Forks at 7 p.m. (with fireworks at 7:30 p.m.)

At the end of the parade will be the jolly old elf himself on the refurbished Santa float, which includes renovated reindeer and a more secure sleigh, thanks to an overhaul by students at the Winnipeg Technical College.

"It's really all about the magic of the season for the children that come out afnd watch it, just seeing those smiles on the faces of the children as they go down the parade route and the eyes open a little wider. It's just so exciting that way," said Ron Mark, in his fifth year as the Santa Claus Parade's executive director.

"We are expecting huge crowds, between 40,000 and 50,000 with the nice weather that's expected. I'm predicting we'll have about 2,000 people as costumed walkers in the parade walking the route on Saturday."

Volunteer co-ordinator Jackie Britton said there will be 800 volunteers. About 200 of them will assist with 14 block parties along the route. The parties begin at 4 p.m. Families will participate in activities while they wait for the parade.

Another 200 volunteers will start at about 2 p.m. to facilitate the new "No Feet on the Street" safety initiative in which people will be reminded to keep their feet on the sidewalks and curbs so no one's toes are run over during the parade.

"Mom and Dad want to have the best experience for their children. They're thinking the best view, and we know the safety concerns so we can help make sure everyone is safe," Britton said.

Marks said a special guest is coming to town.

"Mrs. Claus is coming down for her second year. Santa brings one of the smaller workshops (a float with Mrs. Claus) down with him and a number of elves who can get kind of mischievous so Mrs. Claus keeps a pretty good eye on them," Mark said. "She had so much fun last year, she just said, 'Clear my calendar, I'm coming to Winnipeg!' "

Portage Avenue east of Sherbrook Street to Portage Avenue East at Westbrook Street will close at 1 p.m. while southbound Main Street between McDermot and Graham avenues will close at 3 p.m. For information: www.winnipegsantaparade.com

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 15, 2013 B2

History

Updated on Friday, November 15, 2013 at 9:48 AM CST: The new safety initiative is "No Feet on the Street."

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