Winnipeg's new Santa Claus Parade float was unveiled Thursday, ensuring a local tradition stretching back more than a century will stay intact.

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This article was published 15/11/2018 (1118 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg's new Santa Claus Parade float was unveiled Thursday, ensuring a local tradition stretching back more than a century will stay intact.

This year, the future of the annual parade was thrown into doubt after Santa’s float was declared unsafe and decommissioned. Thanks to the generosity of Winnipeggers, Santa Claus was the recipient of his own Christmas miracle, after more than $160,000 was raised to fund the construction costs for a new ride.

Santa checks out his new ride new ride Thursday evening at the Forks. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Santa checks out his new ride new ride Thursday evening at the Forks. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

"When there’s a threat of it not happening, of having this tradition broken, but then everyone pulls together and does what they can, it’s just a wonderful moment. It was no one donor who solved the problem completely," parade director Monica Derksen said Thursday.

"Hundreds of donors gave what they could, and I feel like, as a result, a lot of Winnipeggers now have a sense of ownership over this and it’s a community asset, not just a corporate promotion."

The new float, with all its bells and whistles, was unveiled Thursday evening at The Forks festival stage. It will be christened during its first run down Portage Avenue during the 109th annual parade Saturday.

"It will be one of the biggest floats in the parade, at over 50 feet long. It has a heated seat for Santa, its own sound system. It rides on a lower trailer than normal, so I think as a spectator it will feel like you’re closer to it and more engaged with it," Derksen said.

Plans for building a replacement float were launched not long after the 2017 parade. However, in April, a sponsorship agreement fell through, throwing the future of the venture into doubt.

The new float will be christened during its first run down Portage Avenue during the 109th annual parade Saturday. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

The new float will be christened during its first run down Portage Avenue during the 109th annual parade Saturday. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

A GoFundMe fundraising webpage was launched, but by September, it was still well short of its goal of $100,000. That’s when organizers put out a warning the parade could be cancelled -- and Winnipeggers stepped up to the plate in a big way.

The donation drive ended up raising more money than needed to cover the construction costs, so organizers have decided to put the additional funds aside to cover maintenance and storage costs in the future.

"In the six weeks since we confirmed that we’re going ahead, our entire message has been a great big thanks to Winnipeg. It’s an overwhelming project to start with and then when it gets put in jeopardy things get a bit stressful," Derksen said.

"The fact is we’re going ahead thanks to Winnipeggers who gave back and felt this was a tradition worth saving."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.