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Over 25 animated floats, 100 celebrity clowns, 1,500 participants dressed in costume, about 2,000 spectators on the street, and millions worldwide watching the live broadcast in countries across North America, Europe, and the former Soviet Union, the annual tradition does Toronto proud.
That and the estimated $100,000 annually the parade raises for children’s charities – not only makes me proud to call Toronto home, but feel warm inside knowing kids are having fun, and helping other kids, of all ages.
The Toronto Santa Clause Parade has an amazing history too. Origin
Image by Sherlock77 (James) via Flickrally started by one of the founders of our great country – Timothy Eaton – or at least his family. Eaton’s department store was the original sponsor of the parade and for some time stopped at nothing short of spectacular to make the parade the best in the world.
In 1913, Eaton’s brought in live reindeer from Labrador to pull Santa’s sleigh. They even got a veterinarian on call all day and night to look after these animals, ensuring their special diet of moss was followed.
Also in 1913, children were allowed to march alongside the parade, d
Image by Sherlock77 (James) via Flickrropping letters to Santa in baskets. Every letter with a proper mailing address received a personal response from the jolly old elf.
Incidentally, Canada Post Employees continue to volunteer their time, personally responding on behalf of St. Nick, to all the letters addressed to Santa at Canada’s North Pole (yes you American’s – Santa is Canadian, eh.)
In 1919 Santa was flown in on the Aerodome blimp, landing right on Eglinton Avenue amidst a huge crowd.
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During The Great Depression, Toronto radio station CFRB began broadcasting dramatic stories following Santa’s trip from the North Pole down to Toronto a month before the 1929 parade – this was the era of radio plays, long before television would rule the home entertainment world. Children and adults followed the stories with excitement, building anticipation leading up to the parade. This gave many hope during one of the worst financial disasters in human existence.
During World War II, as materials were scarce, most of the parade costumes in 1939’s parade were made of paper. To allow more people to see the parade, businesses allowed people to go up high and follow the parade route below.
Office towers, including the Park Plaza Hotel (now the Park Hyatt) allowed children and adults to go to the upper floors, and look through the windows, and watch from balconies, as Santa made his way through the city’s downtown.
It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the Santa Clause Parade made Canada’s national broadcaster – the CBC. The parade was first carried on CBC in 1952, and was later filmed and packaged for schools across the country with famous Canadian broadcasters Byng Whitteker and Don Harron providing commentary.
Then, in 1982, the original founder of the parade, Eaton’s withdrew its sponsorship of the now 77-year-old annual event. Within three-days, 20 companies had signed on to sponsor the floats, and the following
Image via Wikipediayear, the tradition of Celebrity Clowns began, when over 60 business executives each donated $1,000 to hand out balloons, march and entertain kids along the route.
In 1985 the lights around Queen’s Park Circle were lit for the parade, starting the annual tree lighting ceremony which traditionally takes place just days before the parade.
In 1989 two broadcasters from Russia provided live coverage of the parade to over 250 million viewers in the Soviet Union. As a way of saying “thank you,” Russia placed a float in the 1991 parade, carrying well-known fairy tale characters.
Now, Toronto’s annual Santa Clause Parade is the oldest parade in the world, carried on television stations locally in Toronto and across Canada. It is also one of the few parades carried live on television around the globe.
Who would have thought that a kid’s parade can make Toronto so proud?