Over 10,000 Brantford and area residents gathered along Dalhousie Street for the long-awaited return of the Santa Claus parade on Saturday, November 25, 2023.
The parade kicked off at the corner of Stanley and Dalhousie Street before making its way towards Harmony Square for the Santa Claus Parade After Party.
Children and their parents solidified their spots along the curb early so as to not miss the chance to wave to jolly old St. Nick.
While many were bundled up in blankets and coats to stay warm, plenty of children took the opportunity to play in the street or grab a treat from one of the many vendors walking up and down the road.
As the parade drew near, David McKee, Brantford’s Town Crier, led the way on foot alongside Harmony Squirrel and Kevin Davis, Mayor for the City of Brantford, while the floats followed shortly behind.
This year, a variety of 77 local businesses and organizations came out to show off their festive floats, including Brantford firefighters, paramedics and police.
For many, like Jennifer Middleton, Community Events Coordinator for the City of Brantford, it was her first time participating in the parade.
“Seeing the droves of people was incredible, there wasn’t a single space that wasn’t covered,” laughed Middleton. “I had the best time and it really was the most magical experience. All the kids waving Merry Christmas with their treat bags, it was just so stinkin’ cute and I definitely want to do it again next year.”
Larry Brock, MP of Brantford-Brant and his parliament counterpart, Will Bouma, smiled and waved to the crowd from their vehicles while members of council like Richard Carpenter, walked the streets collecting goods for the Brantford Food Bank.
Finally, as Santa Claus approached the end of the parade route, thousands of residents followed behind his sleigh to partake in the after party festivities.
Nearly 5000 people packed into Harmony Square to grab free hot chocolate and popcorn, face painting, pictures with Santa and to write their last-minute letters to the North Pole.
Middleton said that before the parade even ended, people were lined up in Harmony Square starting at 6:30 p.m. for a chance to be the first in line to meet the man of the hour.
After a declaration from McKee, Santa told the crowd that he was incredibly impressed with the party’s turnout.
“This is the best crowd I have ever seen at this after party, and you folks are just amazing!,” declared Mr. Claus.
The crowd then helped countdown in preparation for the official lighting of Harmony Square.
Attendees clapped and cheered as the square came to life, and many took the chance for family photos in front of the large Christmas tree, while others danced along to Christmas carols.
Dave Carrol, Lead Pastor of Freedom House, has been involved in the parade committee for many years and even partakes in the Rogers broadcast of the event, however this year was the first time planning the parade.
JCI Brantford (formerly Jacycees Brantford) ran the parade for 45 years, and announced in early 2022, that it would be unable to independently operate the parade any longer. Last year, the City of Brantford worked together alongside Grandbridge Energy for six weeks to help the event return, but this year, Brantford’s Freedom House officially took over the parade.
“This parade was great, the whole team really came together and the parade was just smooth as butter,” said Carrol. “The day was just great and the weather was perfect.”
Carrol noted that the Freedom House team added something new for those involved in this year’s parade.
“Freedom House is really big on kindness, and this year we had teams of volunteers and ambassadors going up and down the staging area where the floats park, and handing out cookies, hand warmers and water to just give that extra personal touch,” he said. “This is one of the two biggest community gatherings in the city and it’s such a genuine event ,so we really wanted to stoke that and remind people why they are doing it.”
He said he was very proud of the event and its turnout.
“I’m very very proud and for me, hearing that the crowd enjoyed it, is fantastic, but the thing I love the most is the internal stories from the volunteers and teams that put it on,” he said.