Monday, November 17, 2008

Holiday: Toronto's Santa Claus Parade

The North Toronto Collegiate Band marched near the peak of the snowfall during the Santa Claus Parade on 16-November-2008

TORONTO, ONTARIO - It's hard to deny that the holiday season has started in Ontario. Cornelius Krieghoff events aside, the first unmistakable sign came as I walked to Remembrance Day activities, as a city crew was in the middle of erecting an artificial holiday tree above the Alex Ling Fountain at the corner of Bloor and Jane in Toronto. A lighting ceremony was held at the tree two days later. For most, the true kickoff of the holiday season comes with the Santa Claus Parade the third weekend of November.

When living in the United States, I would complain about any winter holiday activity before US Thanksgiving, held on the fourth Thursday of November. After that day, the holiday season could be considered in full swing and red and green were fair game. Bringing them out before Thanksgiving brought cold shoulders and a personal boycott of any business starting too early. In Canada, without that natural temporal barrier, a holiday season that is about six weeks long seems reasonable--why not have ten percent of the year be "the most wonderful time of the year"?

Hence, I headed out to Bloor Street near the beginning of the parade route at Christie Street--the long route utilizes Bloor, Queen's Park Crescent, University, Queen, and Yonge. Every inch of that route is needed, as the parade draws larger crowds than I have seen at any other Toronto event. It seems like anyone with a legal or interior age below twelve lines the streets.

It isn't hard to see why. The parade goes on for over an hour, with twenty or more floats (twenty-two this year), twenty or more bands (twenty-one this year, from as far away as Ohio), and a variety of interesting things in between from groups in uniform costumes of various animals to Mr. Peanut.

A float sponsored by Pizza Pizza featured bears eating and fishing for pizza in Toronto's Santa Claus Parade

My favorite float this year was one sponsored by Pizza Pizza that featured a group of bears eating pizza. The cutest part was a cub sitting on the shoulders of its father, trying to use a fishing pole and hook to snag a slice of pizza out of his father's hand. Other especially good ones included penguins sponsored by Smart Choice, a surprisingly tasteful dragon and castle from McDonald's, and giant snowmen from Canadian Tire.

Elicia MacKenzie waved to the crowds at Toronto's Santa Claus Parade from the "Sound of Music" float

The clear crowd favorite was a "Sound of Music" float featuring Elicia MacKenzie. The 23-year old from Vancouver was the winner of the summer reality show on CBC Television, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? which chose who would star in a live production here in Toronto. MacKenzie was a popular winner, has gotten good reviews from the critics in the actual production, and brought big cheers from the crowd during the parade.

A bicycle sponsored by Flickr took pictures of the crowds at Toronto's Santa Claus Parade

Amongst the more unusual things in the parade was a bicycle sponsored by Flickr that tracked along with the Yahoo-sponsored float. A camera was mounted underneath the handlebars and took pictures of the crowd.

One of the most amusing things about the parade is hearing all the marching band arrangements of holiday music. I can't recall ever hearing "Winter Wonderland" played on bagpipes, or "Good King Wenceslas" coordinated by a xylophone player before.

Santa Claus waved to the crowd during Toronto's Santa Claus Parade on 16-November-2008

Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for came as Santa Claus guided his sleigh down the street, wishing all who could hear a Merry Christmas.

My full coverage (over 90 photos) of the Santa Claus Parade will be posted to my photo blog--after the holiday season begins in the United States.

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