The longest-running children’s parade in the world will take over the streets of Toronto Sunday as the Santa Claus Parade kicks off the holiday season with a mix of tradition and technology.
With 24 floats, 20 marching bands and over 3,000 volunteers, the parade has come a long way since it was comprised of a single float back in 1904. Click here to view a slideshow of the parade’s history.
More than one million people will line the parade route Sunday, while upwards of 4 million more from around the world will watch the parade on TV.
“It’s entertainment from the time you arrive until the time you leave” Peter Beresford, president of the Santa Claus Parade, tells CityNews.ca.
The first float will depart Christie Pits at 12:30pm on Sunday. The parade will head east on Bloor, then turn south on University at the Royal Ontario Museum, make a left at Wellington and continue east towards the St. Lawrence Market.
See the parade route below:
But how do you keep something more than 100 years old relevant?
This year, there are a few changes to the event. The traditional Mother Goose float has been revamped and a brand new float honouring the Grey Cup’s 100th anniversary has been added.
Organizers say it’s their goal to maintain the traditional favourites while making elements of the parade more interactive: “We’re giving people the opportunity to explore the parade in as many ways as possible,” says Ron Barbaro, co-chair of the parade.
The Santa Cam is back, taking photos every second from the back of Santa’s sleigh. After the parade, attendees can then visit the Santa Claus Parade website and download their photo.
The dancing clowns, a parade favourite, will carry giant frames and invite parade watchers to get behind the frame with them to snap photos with their smart phones or cameras.
To get in the spirit before it even begins kids can download a replica of the 1952 Eaton’s colouring calendar and colour the float designs as they appeared 60 years ago.
That’s not the only way Santa is going digital. The updated Santa Claus Parade app allows smartphone users to shake their phone and hear jingle bells as well as track Santa throughout the parade.
Although the new technology is exciting, the tradition of the parade and the memories that come with it are really what keep it going strong.
McMaster University student Sheena Naidu used to travel from outside the city to attend the Toronto production as a child. “I remember getting all bundled up, stopping for hot chocolate and getting so excited to come to Toronto,” she says “But nothing compared to seeing Santa.” Naidu says the parade is one of her fondest childhood memories.
Barbaro agrees. “Kids come to the parade and they’re smiling and waving at Santa. They grow up and have kids of their own and they are back on the same sidewalk. It’s a wonderful circle.”