Optimist Santa Parade's coming to town Nov. 18

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It won't be long before 'Santa Claus is coming to town!'

Saturday, Nov. 18th is the annual Tillsonburg Optimist Santa Claus Parade, starting at 2 p.m. The parade route, which has not changed in decades, will go up Broadway to Sanders Street and conclude at the Tillsonburg Community Centre.

Parade participants will begin to gather in the parking lots behind Avondale Church from 12:30-1 p.m. If you are dropping off float/parade participants, there is a new designated 'drop off' area - the post office parking lot.

"A lot of the churches bring their children to go on the floats, the dance studios bring their kids... and we were a little concerned last year because parents were driving right in where all the transport trucks were pulling in with the floats. It's a safety concern when you're trying to get all this quickly - and safely - staged. So we thought what we really need is a separate area where they can drop their children off, give them a kiss, say 'have a good time,' chat with other parents if they want, and we don't have the same concerns about transport trucks pulling in with flatbed trailers.

"So we're hoping we can direct people over there (post office parking lot) as the place to drop off. It's really a big safety issue."

As in years past, Tillsonburg firefighters start off the Santa Claus Parade, and once again they will be collecting donations for the food bank along the route.

"Then it's the politicians, and we try to stage it so that we have some music, then non-music floats, then music," said Norma Collis, chair of the Tillsonburg and Area Optimist Club Santa Claus Parade, "so that we don't have competing music."

Along with local MP and MPPs, the Optimists welcome all of Tillsonburg's Town Council to this year's 'Canada 150' Santa Claus parade, which Collis calls a 'pop-up parade' because pre-registration is not required.

"They just show up," Collis smiled. "And somehow it always comes together.

"We hope," she added with a laugh.

"We never know until the day of... it's always a big surprise. We look forward to all of the amazing entries this year - your creativity and enthusiasm makes this parade an exciting event!

"Last year we were just overwhelmed with the response and the variety of people that came, it's just amazing," she said, noting last year's parade even included a seasonally-decorated Siemens blade.

Musical entertainment will include two new entry this year - the Windsor Young Optimist Marching Band and Mark Dickson's Marching Kazoo Band.

The Optimist marching band usually doesn't travel this far, said Collis, but they are making an exception for an Optimist Santa parade.

"This group does drum lines and other routines and have promised they will do this wherever they see crowds gathered along the route, particularly in the downtown area."

For this reason, the Optimists are asking for everyone's cooperation and not park on Broadway on Saturday the 18th after 12 p.m.

"The band would like to use the entire width of Broadway to do their routines."

Mark Dickson's kazoo band made it's first appearance at the Optimist Club's Canada Day 'People's Parade' and they are ramping up for the Santa parade with a couple of pre-parade practices. Forty-four kazoos were donated for this event, so if you would like to join the kazoo fun, contact Dickson at All ages welcome.

"He (Mark Dickson) is quite enthusiastic," said Collis. "It means a lot of people that maybe ordinarily couldn't or wouldn't be in the parade, have an opportunity. Grab a kazoo and away you go. As long as you can hum - you just hum into it - you can play a kazoo. Once you catch on that you don't blow into it, it's really easy."

Familiar favourites will include the Ingersoll Pipe Band and Tomato Soup Band, Uncle Heavy's Pork Chop Band, and the Golden Harps Steel Drum Band.

Last year's parade ran about 45 minutes from firefighters to Santa Claus and the Optimists anticipate at least that many floats this year.

"We're hearing rumours of additional floats and that's great," said Collis. "I think it will grow each year."

Along the route this year, Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital volunteers, who are actively recruiting more volunteers, will be handing out candy. Spectators are asked to wait on the curb for the candy - do not go onto the street.

"Stand on the curb, most of the floats will have people walking on the street as well, and they will walk over and give out candy. We don't want people dashing out onto the street."

New this year, Santa's elves will be collecting Letters to Santa along the route.

"We ask that all spectators wishing to contact Santa by mail, please wait on the sidewalk for the elves to come to you. Just wave the letter and the elves will come over to you."

Donuts and drinks will be available at the Upper Deck Youth Centre before and after the parade for parade participants, doubling as a 'warm up' centre.

"Members of the BIA have some surprises planned as well," said Collis. "We hope that you will check out our town's businesses both before and after the parade." 



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