St. John's Christmas parade draws thousands of spectators — and one marriage proposal

St. Nick's annual visit to downtown St. John's drew crowds of rosy-cheeked spectators with letters in hand.

This year's march featured happy beagles, a food drive — and an engagement

The annual St. John's Christmas Parade drew creative floats, energetic dancers and lots of smiles Sunday. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Clear skies treated tens of thousands to a sunny Santa Claus parade in downtown St. John's on Sunday, with about 100 floats and 5,000 participants snaking down the parade route along Duckworth and Water streets.

Kids and parents bundled up, waiting for the big man himself, waving letters detailing toys and holiday wishes.

Raya Penny, 14, remembers once watching from the sidelines. But for the parade she was decked out in a full Christmas tree costume, ready to entertain the newer generations.

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      "Every year as a kid I'd come to the parade and I'd have so much fun, just watching and giving my stuff to Santa, handing in my letters and donations," Penny said.

      Postal workers were on hand to collect those carefully crafted notes to Santa — and perhaps owing to St. Nick's magical presence, one postal worker got her own holiday present early.

      Melanie Badcock's partner bounded into the street to surprise her with a marriage proposal.

      This Canada Post worker is getting married, thanks to a seasonally appropriate proposal from her beau. (Shawn Roche)

      "I said yes," she laughed, adding that it was probably the most romantic setting to pop the question, given the time of year.

      "As I was walking, collecting the letters, I seen him jump out of the crowd, get down on one knee and propose," she said. "Couldn't be happier."

      Good cheer abounded, with elfish grins, costumes and carols in every direction. 

      Newfoundland Power volunteers, wheeling shopping carts to collect food donations and small change for the Community Food Sharing Association, were particularly excited.

      Lots of families are getting a Christmas hamper this year, thanks to the generosity of onlookers. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

      Last year volunteers collected $10,000 in cash and 16,000 pounds of food — valued at $40,000 — for the charity.

      "This is the 19th year we've done this," said organizer Lee Ann Surette. "It's big, this time of year, for them."

      Donations ranging from macaroni to frozen turkeys are delivered all over Newfoundland and shipped to Labrador.

      The big man himself, Santa Claus, at the annual downtown St. John's parade. (Submitted by Jessica Garzon)

      "I've brought my pennyfarthing for the last 15 years," said Steve Watson, waiting to proceed behind a marching band.

      The bike is a replica from 1860, he explained, purchased mostly so he could show it off each year in the parade. "This was before a chain was put on the bicycle. And there's no brakes on it, so it's good luck, so to speak."

      No, he's never fallen off, he laughed.

      Steve Watson bought his pennyfarthing primarily to entertain parade watchers. In 15 years, he says, he's never had a spill. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

      One entourage in particular had special meaning for many this year. 

      Decked out in purple and yellow, marchers of all ages surrounded a Wizard of Oz-themed float doubling as a fundraiser for Nevaeh's Lemonade Stand, a charity that has raised $250,000 for sick children across the province.

      Nevaeh Denine, 9, died of neuroblastoma earlier this year, but her memory lived on in Saturday's parade. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

      The charity lives on despite the passing of its founder, nine-year-old Nevaeh Denine, this summer.

      Stephanie O'Brien said the characters represented Nevaeh. "She was smart, and courageous, and she had a big heart," O'Brien said. "She just wanted to give back, so we're going to give back to her today."

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