Manitoba

Winnipeg's Santa Claus parade in jeopardy of being cancelled after 108 years

Santa Claus might not be coming to town for the first time in 108 years, unless the organizers of the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade can come up with $68,000 to fix the big man's float.

Organizers say they need to raise $68K to go ahead with annual affair

Santa has been bringing his parade to Winnipeg since 1909. (Bob Strong/Santa)

Santa Claus might not be coming to town for the first time in 108 years, unless the organizers of the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade can come up with $68,000 to fix the big man's float.

The parade's board of directors says they need to raise that amount by Oct. 5 or they won't be able to hold the Nov. 17 event.

Sadly, as time is ticking, without the necessary funding, the parade simply will not be able to operate- Rennie Zegalski

Santa's float was declared unsafe earlier this year and plans for building a replacement were put into motion after securing a new sponsorship.

The original float was built on a structure created out of old Eaton's department store billboards but extreme winter temperatures and decades of wear and tear has left it damaged beyond repair, parade director Monica Derksen said.

The decor is also crumbling and the snowmen are disintegrating, she said.

In April 2018, the parade's new sponsorship was rescinded, leaving a big gap in the fundraising campaign.

A $100,000 GoFundMe campaign was then launched to secure the parade's future but it is still $68,000 short, says a news release from the parade committee.

"We are so passionate about this storied and historic Winnipeg event and we sincerely hope we see this tradition continue," said Rennie Zegalski, chair of the Santa Claus Parade board.

"Sadly, as time is ticking, without the necessary funding, the parade simply will not be able to operate."

Parade history

Eaton's Department Store held its first Santa Claus Parade in 1905 in Toronto and it was so successful that in 1909, Eaton's started parades in Montreal and Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade website says on its history page.

Due to rising costs, Eaton's in Winnipeg organized its last parade in 1965. Capt. George Smith of the East Kildonan Fire Department, on behalf of the Winnipeg Firefighters Club, bought the parade from Eaton's for $1.50, the website says. That marked the start of the community-based format the parade still follows to this day.

The organizers of Winnipeg's Santa Claus Parade say they need to come up with $68,000 in order for the annual parade to go forward. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

From 1966 to 1975, Winnipeg firefighters worked closely with volunteers from schools around the city to carry on the parade tradition. In 1975, the Winnipeg Jaycees, now JCI Winnipeg, took over the stewardship of the parade, the site says.

In 1987, the Christmas Cheer Board began its relationship with the parade, collecting donations and non-perishable food items along the route.

In November 1998, the City of Winnipeg hosted the CFL's Grey Cup championship game, and Manitoba Hydro, along with event organizers, organized a Grey Cup parade in downtown. Hydro continued to sponsor an annual nighttime parade, the Power Smart Festival of Lights Parade, downtown from 1999 to 2005.

When the Grey Cup returned in 2006, JCI Winnipeg joined forces with the City of Winnipeg and Manitoba Hydro, rolling their events into one big Santa Claus Parade.

Annually, there are more than 75 entries — floats and walking groups — that total more than 3,000 participants, the website says.