Canada’s oldest Santa Claus Parade is held in Toronto. It was launched by the Eaton’s chain of department stores in 1905. Although the inaugural parade had just one float, it was a success. Inspired by the parade’s popularity, Eaton’s started similar parades in Winnipeg and Montreal. The Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade has been held every year since 1909. It’s one of the city’s most important community events.
The parade begins at Portage Avenue and Young Street, heads down Portage Avenue all the way to Main Street, then continues down Main Street, turns onto William Stephenson Way, and ends at Westbrook Street. It is a truly spectacular events that features about a hundred marching bands and decorated floats. Unlike many other Christmas parades, the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade is a night-time, lit event that starts around 5 PM.
However, the festivities begin several hours before the parade. The big culmination is preceded by a number of pre-parade events such as free performances and Santa’s Block Parties.
There are 17 blocks on the Santa Parade route, and each of them hosts a party, creating a festive atmosphere for all spectators. Each block features different kinds of entertainment including live performances, mascots, street hockey, touch football, face painting, various activities for kids, funny photo booths, hot chocolate and snacks, dancing, and more. The parties are supervised by teams of volunteers known as Block Brigades. They ensure that all participants have a fun, friendly, entertaining, safe and memorable experience.
Every year, the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade draws more than 60,000 spectators of all ages to downtown Winnipeg to watch the parade and participate in the affiliated events. It has become an integral part of the city’s cultural life and a major tourist attraction.
Photo by Leanne Friesen