It took just over an hour for Saturday’s Tillsonburg Community Santa Claus parade to complete its downtown route.
With about 48 parade entries, including more than 30 area businesses, a shortened route and brisk pace, there was a chance the parade leaders would arrive back at the staging area before Santa’s float actually left the Avondale United Church parking lot.
That didn’t happen, said Chris Kersten, one of the community Christmas parade organizing committee that included Patti McCarrragher, Shayla Taylor, Joey Antonissen, Melodie Boyle and Cathy Ryan.
“I’m guessing they were probably coming around Bridge Street when we were on our way out,” said Kersten, who was pulling the last float.
That would have put Tillsonburg Fire and Rescue Services’ trucks in the parade’s home stretch, however.
“We had a lot of people,” said Kersten. “Seeing all those people, and those kids smiling, my heart grew three sizes that day. It was so cool to see the town come together and I think we need this because life’s just been something over these last couple of years. It was nice to feel that normalcy and I’m hoping we can do that next year.
“I had a lot of fun and I enjoyed recruiting the businesses.”
The parade marshalling – which can be tricky with numerous floats and many young children in the parking lot area – went smoothly.
“It went pretty good,” said Kersten, who made a minor route change at the start to coordinate with the town’s street closures.
It meant the parade started on Harvey Street… same as it has for decades when the Kiwanis and Optimist Clubs organized it.
“We had everything come out pretty good, everything went really smooth. I was actually a little bit worried because of how many entries we had – the parking lot is big, but it’s not ‘that big.’ We had as many people as we could come in there and kind of shifted everything up to get some more people in the back. Everything went pretty good actually.
“I tried to make things safe for everybody so there wasn’t a transport in behind a bunch of walkers.”
Kersten also had to deal with many last-minute entries.
“I wasn’t sure honestly how many we were going to get. I let a little extra jump in because I wasn’t sure, and then all of a sudden Oxford – and Tillsonburg – really stepped up and we got a lot of entries. And some from Norfolk.
“I honestly had a lot of fun doing this and I would totally do it again. I thought it was going to be so stressful. And it was for the amount of time we had to do this. The night before, I thought ‘I can’t sleep, I can’t sleep…’ It was tough, but we got it done and I really do thank everybody that did step up to help everyone. If it wasn’t for their donations – and their time – we wouldn’t have been able to put this together.”
One area to improve, said Kersten, would be adding more Christmas music during the parade.
“I think it would be good to have more music, there were some quiet spots. We tried to get a marching band, but it was just so hard. I had so many people ask, ‘Is there going to be bagpipes?’”
After the parade, children could have their photos taken with Santa Claus.
“We had hot chocolate, candy canes and all that stuff there for people.”