After being relocated to the airport last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, London’s annual Santa Claus parade will be making a much-anticipated return to Dundas Street for its 2021 edition.
The parade, the 65th one to be held since the event began in 1956, will get underway at 6 p.m. on Saturday, starting in the east end and making its way west down Dundas to Ridout Street as it has for decades. The theme this year is “A Cartoon Christmas.”
“There was lots of challenges at the airport, but we are so glad to be back on the city streets, that way there’s a lot more people who can come and see it, and it should be a great event,” said Shaun Merton, the parade’s long-time executive director.
Last year, the parade set up shop at London International Airport after the city decided in September 2020 that it wouldn’t issue parade permits for the remainder of the year, impacting the Remembrance Day parade and all three of London’s Santa Claus parades.
The unusual tarmac event saw attendees drive past the parade’s floats and performers, enjoying the sights and sounds from the comfort of their vehicles. Despite the challenges, Merton said the event went well, with thousands of people turning out to see Santa Claus, who touched down in a helicopter.
Organizers had planned to return to the airport for this year’s parade, but got the green light from city hall to use the streets, he said.
“The biggest disadvantage last year was that… we were originally going to start at one o’clock, (but) we opened at 12:30. We were only going to go ’till four, (but) we went ’till 5:30,” he said, adding it was a lengthy day for those taking part.
“We still didn’t get enough cars in that we would have liked to get, but I mean, it’s the first time we did it. It went over really, really well. Everybody that was involved in it loved it.”
The challenge this year, Merton says, is making sure enough donations come in and sponsors sign on to cover costs.
“There’s lots of costs for it. Policing, insurance, all that kind of stuff changes when you’re going to go down a parade route. Donations are down this year because a lot of businesses weren’t up and running, so that makes it tough as well,” he said.
“We’re struggling for financial support this year, so that’s one thing we really, really need.”
While entertainment for this year’s parade is still being finalized, Merton says there will be both new and familiar faces.
“The llamas haven’t been out for nearly four or five years, so they’re coming back,” he said.
“We’re still trying to get some of the entertainment… some of the entertainment is on hold because their groups aren’t up and running. It’s a little hard on entertainment this year, but it’s starting to come together.”
Significant roadwork in London’s Old East Village may cause a bit of a headache in getting the parade to the downtown core. A route map has not been released yet, and those looking to attend are asked to check the parade’s website for any updates.
Those looking to take part in the parade have until Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. to enter their float. Businesses and residents interested in sponsoring the parade are asked to visit the parade’s website for more information.
Parade-goers are also reminded to bring non-perishable food items to be collected for the London Food Bank, which is paying tribute to late town crier Bill Paul.
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