Toronto

7 things to know about the Santa Claus Parade

Everything you need to know about this year's Toronto Santa Claus Parade, as well as some fun facts about the iconic event's history.

Live reindeer were once part of the century-old celebration, which these days has its own iPhone app

The 111th Toronto Santa Claus Parade will take place on Sunday, Nov. 15. 0:44

As many as one million people are lining the streets of Toronto on Sunday to watch Santa and Mrs. Claus, dozens of floats and thousands of costumed volunteers make their way through the heart of the city to spread some holiday joy. 

Here's everything you need to know about this year's Toronto Santa Claus Parade, as well as some fun facts about the iconic event's history. 

1. When and where

The 2015 parade started Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Santa and Mrs. Claus are joined by 26 floats, 21 marching bands and thousands of costumed participants. There is also a special Raptors float taking part that will highlight the NBA All-Star Game, which is being played in Toronto in February.

The parade follows the same route as last year, beginning at Bloor and Christie streets and ending at the intersection of Front and Jarvis streets at the St. Lawrence Market. You can check the TTC website for a list of all the transit diversions.

2. Track Santa on your phone

This year you can track Santa's movements on the official parade iPhone app. (Handout )

You can download the parade's official iPhone app to track Santa's progress along the route.

It also features bell noises so you can "ring out proud as Santa and all of his fabulous floats pass by."

3. It's 111 years old 

The Toronto Santa Claus Parade pre-dates the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City by almost 20 years.

It started in 1905, when it was just a one-man show featuring St. Nick arriving in the city by train at Union Station.

4. Live reindeer

In 1913, real live reindeer pulled Santa's sleigh through the streets of Toronto. The Eaton's chain of department stores, which ran the parade at the time, had the animals imported from Labrador, according to the parade's official website.

A plastic Rudolph leads the way for Santa's sleigh in this image from the 2013 Toronto Santa Claus Parade, but 100 years ago it was real, live reindeer doing the job. (Katherine Holland/CBC)

5. TV time 

CBC televised the parade for the first time in 1952 and continued to broadcast it every year until 1983, when Global took over. CTV has aired the event since 2010 and is doing so this year from 4:30 to 6 p.m. ET.

6. 'Save our Santa' 

In August 1982, amid a turbulent economy and mass layoffs at Eaton's stores, company president Frederik Eaton cancelled the beloved event. 

"Times are difficult, and it seems silly to be spending money on a parade when we are having to let people go," he reportedly said at the time.

Metro Toronto chairman Paul Godfrey, now the president of the Postmedia newspaper chain, vowed to do everything he could to save the parade, and citizens joined together to launch a "Save Our Santa" campaign.

Shortly after, Godfrey and Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton announced the formation of a non-profit corporation to run the parade, headed up by Metro Toronto Zoo chairman Ron Barbaro and McDonald's Canada president George Cohon.

7. Celebrity clowns

The very next year, Barbaro came up with the idea of using celebrity clowns to raise funds for the parade. In 1983, more than 60 executives paid $1,000 each to hand out balloons to children along the parade route

This year's parade features 125 celebrity clowns, each of whom donated $1,200 to dress up and hand out candy to kids in the crowd.  

The 2015 Santa Claus Parade is underway with floats and friends coming together on the streets of Toronto. (Alan Habbick/CBC)

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