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Santa's parade a really big show

Block parties part of the celebration

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/11/2010 (3486 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

You're going to want to shout, but you better not cry: The Santa Claus Parade is coming back to town on Saturday.

It's 101 years old in 2010, and still going strong.

In fact, though the holiday favourite's centenary celebration was last year, organizers have been amazed to discover the anniversary momentum has sleighed right through into 2010. "It really did take off from last year," says parade manager Ron Mark, who first stepped into the role in 2009. "We're moving into our new century."

Consider this: The downtown parade is at maximum capacity this year, with 101 float and marching entries getting ready to roll from the beginning of the route, at Portage Avenue and Young Street, to its end at Main Street and William Stephenson Way. That's about 2,000 people pounding the pavement in all, Mark said, and about all the event can squeeze into its preferred 90-minute run time, which lasts from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

By the by, that's enough people to make it the biggest after-sunset parade in Canada, Mark noted, and a big growth from recent years where an average of 75 floats signed up. Fifteen of the entries are brand-new for 2010, so there'll be more surprises this year.

Mark wagered that many participants were lured by the parade's recent "walker program," which urges all entrants to feature not just floats, but folks marching beside them as well. "The idea was to really help more people from the community get involved," Mark said. "It's really taken off... we're quite excited."

The sustained growth is also evidence of the parade's continuing push to expand the 'Peg tradition beyond a basic street march. "The parade is developing into more of a parade day event, rather than just having the parade being the total focus of it," Mark said.

For instance: Starting an hour before the main show, companies and organizations will sponsor "block parties" for each of the parade route's 16 blocks. Each block -- sponsored by the likes of Great West Life, the Bay, Sport Manitoba and 13 others -- will feature a unique slate of activities.

Among the most beloved entrants to the streetscape, though, will be a big nod to local history. This year, the new Manitoba Hydro tower will host the vintage Santa's Village displays from Eaton's. The old vignettes have been held at the Manitoba Children's Museum since Eaton's closed, but with the museum undergoing renovations, the beloved figures will ride out the 2010 holiday season at the Portage Avenue skyscraper, free of charge to view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

And don't forget The Forks, where CityTV will host an open house at its studios and the Manitoba Theatre For Young People will open its doors for free acting workshops for kids before the parade. (Spots are limited for that one, so participants must register in advance by calling 947-0394.)

After the parade, The Forks will host entertainment, a DJ bumping tunes and a high-tech 3-D animation of Santa's elves projected on the side of Johnston Terminal. At 7:30 p.m., the whole shebang will end with a round of fireworks.

Check out our highlight video from the 2009 Santa Clause Parade:

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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