GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL — Thanks to a handful of local volunteers and tremendous community support for the annual Santa Claus parade, Christmas will begin this Saturday, Dec. 2, in Grand Falls-Windsor.
For 58 years, the Grand Falls Lions Club’s Santa Claus Parade has hit the streets to launch the season and spread holiday magic.
When the club disbanded, five members took on the venture. Wanda Healey, Steve Healey, Des Hynes, Bev Hynes and Greg Lake took it upon themselves to keep the long-running holiday tradition alive.
“It’s five people who sit here and knock our heads together to try to figure it all out,” Wanda said.
Why take on this huge venture?
“For me it was for the kids,” Steve said. “I had kids who wanted to see that parade and that was my main drive to do it.”
“Why wouldn’t you?” Wanda added. “It’s a parade. We can’t let that fall away. I always say the parade is what starts Christmas. Every year after the Christmas parade we buy our tree.”
This Saturday, Dec. 2, beginning at 10 a.m. on Main Street, children and adults alike will get to experience the joy of Christmas and watch floats, smiling faces, and Santa Claus himself passing throughout town for the 60th year.
Committee members each have their own memories of the parade over the years.
Steve has attended 40 parades, and among his many happy memories are the clowns and other mascots.
“My memory about the parade is getting candy – they would throw candy at you from the floats and people would run out in the road for the candy,” Steve said. “That’s what made the parade, was getting candy and seeing Santa. When you started hearing Santa’s voice over the loud speakers on the truck, the excitement would burst to know that Santa was coming.”
He said when he and his sister were young they would never miss a parade.
They used to watch it on Main Street and then rush to High Street or by the Oddfellows Lodge to watch it again.
“A lot people make three stops around town to make sure they see it. It’s fantastic,” Greg said.
Wanda said she hasn’t missed a parade since she moved to the community in November 2000.
“When I met Steve, we got married and we wanted to put a float in,” Wanda said. “We went to a Lions Club meeting just to see if we could. We ended up joining the Lions Club. The next year we were in the parade helping and now we are running it.”
She said among her favourite memories is hearing positive comments from people after the parade passed by.
“Whatever is wrong in the world just went away for that half hour and all is good.”
Greg has been involved with the parade for 25 years. Des and Bev have been involved for the same length of time, but for a different reason.
“I have yet to watch the Santa Claus parade here since the kids were small – we used to go down on Main Street and watch it, because every year I’ve either been involved with Rogers TV with taping it, or with the Lions Club,” Bev said.
There have been changes over the years, including safety rules. People are no longer allowed to throw candy from floats. Instead mascots, including high school students doing their career hours, walk the route handing candy to children.
They also collect money and food donations for the local food bank. Over the last two years they raised $1,800 and filled the shelves with food.
The parade is a community effort, the committee members said, adding they are just steering the events.
“We wouldn’t be able to pull it off if it wasn’t for the town and the community itself,” Wanda said.
Parade marshal Tim Noble volunteers every year, and businesses around town are supportive and helpful. From paint and building materials to fix Santa’s float to candy, organizers say it wouldn’t be possible without tremendous support from local businesses.
College of the North Atlantic students, as well as residents, have been donating candy, and Scoop and Save is onboard helping with candy this year as well.
“We come home to bags hung on the door,” Wanda said. “There’s people coming from everywhere to give candy.”
The size of the parade has changed, starting small, getting bigger, sizing back, and then getting big again, with more than 60 entries last year, some with multiple vehicles.
Each entry can also win a prize. The parade committee added another prize for best non-commercial float to the list of best overall, best depicting Christmas, best original, and best commercial float.
For more information, visit the Facebook page for the Grand Falls-Windsor Santa Claus Parade Committee.