On the surface, Tillsonburg's annual Christmas Parade on Saturday, November 19 will be much the same as it has been for the past 50 years.
The parade, which starts at 2 p.m., will include decorated seasonal floats, bands, and of course the red-suited man himself, Santa Claus, bringing up the rear.
Behind the scenes, there have been changes - the Tillsonburg Kiwanis Club has passed the torch to the Tillsonburg and Area Optimist Club.
"We were approached in April by the Kiwanis Club, to ask us if we wanted to take on the Santa Claus Parade," said David Collis, president-elect of the Tillsonburg and Area Optimist Club.
The Optimists plan to keep everything the same, at least for the first year.
"We're going with the same template as has been successfully used by the Kiwanis Club in the past," said Collis, noting the parade will assemble - as in past years - in the parking lot behind Avondale United Church, near The Tillsonburg Town Centre mall. Typically that starts as early as 1 p.m.
It will be the same route, heading from Avondale to Oxford Street, then north on Broadway to Sanders Street, ending at the Tillsonburg Community Centre, about 2.3 km in total.
"That's where the Lions Club will be supporting us with donuts and hot chocolate (for parade participants). So there will be Optimist and Lions folks involved in that."
Participation is free, and no pre-registration is required. Contact the Optimists through Facebook (Tillsonburg & Area Optimist Club Christmas Parade), their website www.tillsonburgoptimistclub.com, or email email@example.com for more information on Christmas Parade entries.
"We have very few requirements," said Collis. "The only thing we ask is that if you have a truck or something with advertising, that's great, but it should have some seasonal decorations."
Local schools have been encouraged to enter floats, said Collis.
"We are the Friends of Youth, so we are going to try to get a lot of kids to participate."
Tillsonburg Fire and Rescue Services will be collecting donations for the Helping Hand Food Bank during the parade.
"I've already talked to the folks over at the fire station and they are 'on' with that. So if anyone wants to bring a food item, you can help support the food bank."
Volunteers will be needed for minimal crowd control - keeping people on the sidewalks - and handing out candy.
"We're asking everyone that has floats that they not throw candy... because that's just a recipe for disaster."
The Optimist Club has been assisted in the planning stages by former Tillsonburg Kiwanis members Ron Bates, Mike Coombes and Gerry Carter, and Norm Smith.
"They've all just been fantastic," said Collis.
"We have some great sponsors this year. We received a cultural grant from the Town of Tillsonburg, which will basically pay for the bands, because there's quite a bit of expense associated with the parade. The BIA, of course, has always been a big supporter. The Kiwanis Club, of course. Also Tillsonburg Town Centre, Knights of Columbus, the Tillsonburg Lions Club, and Optimist International."
Longer term, Collis said the Tillsonburg and Area Optimist Club might consider some minor changes. But not this year.
"For the first one, we want to stay with the template because so far I haven't seen where it's broke."
There will be three Santa Claus parades in Oxford County on Nov. 19 - Ingersoll in the morning, followed by Tillsonburg at 2 p.m., and Woodstock in the evening.