Thousands of people, including children of all ages, packed the streets of downtown Winnipeg on Saturday for the 111th Santa Claus Parade, which made a full comeback after two years of COVID-19 restrictions.
Crowds braved temperatures of around –14 C to watch dozens of festive floats, including Santa’s sleigh, rolling down Portage Avenue and Memorial Boulevard.
“Growing up, we always went to the Santa parade, so I’m excited to share this experience with my son,” said Ashley Marquart, who was taking her young one to his first Christmas parade.
Also experiencing the event for the first time was Kasui Kung, who had recently moved to Winnipeg from Hong Kong.
“I always saw those videos and the parade should be great, so this is the first year we are here in Winnipeg, so we had to come to see [it],” said Kung, who donned some festive headwear for the occasion.
“All those Christmas vibes [are] exciting,” she added.
The Santa Claus Parade has been annual tradition in Winnipeg since 1909. It went virtual in 2020, while families registered for distanced “walk-past” visits with Santa’s sleigh near Shaw Park in 2021.
Parade director Monica Derksen said the event usually attracts 30,000 to 50,000 people. Attendance numbers for Saturday’s parade were not immediately available.
This year, organizers teamed up with the Christmas Cheer Board, and attendees were encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy or a non-perishable food item to donate.
The parade took place earlier than usual — from 3 to 5 p.m. — so people can catch a glimpse of Santa before watching the Winnipeg Jets host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Canada Life Centre at 6 p.m.
Another change this year was the route. Instead of travelling east on Portage Avenue from Young Street to Main Street and ending near Shaw Park, it moved west on Portage from Main to Memorial Boulevard, ending at Memorial near Broadway.
Cori Balois and her family were bundled up as they sat in camp chairs on Portage near Donald Street.
“Ski pants, sweatpants, a couple layers of mitts, sweater, turtleneck, jacket, hat. We come prepared,” she said with a laugh.
Balois’s daughter, Natalie Paderson, clutched a red envelope containing her holiday wish list.
“We have letters for Santa,” she said. “For me, I want some LED lights for my room and … have a good year again.”
For Jasmine MacFarlane, who wore a long striped elf hat while standing with family members on Portage and Donald, going to the parade is an annual tradition.
“It brings us joy to us and it makes us happy.”
Santa also came to Brandon
But Santa Claus’s day did not end in Winnipeg. About an hour after that parade ended, he made an appearance at the Brandon Santa Parade in the southwestern Manitoba city.
The event in Brandon marked the first holiday parade since 2019, following a COVID-19 pandemic-imposed hiatus.
This year’s parade, featuring 45 floats and the theme of “Parade of Lights,” ran along Rosser Avenue from Sixth to 17th Street, then returning to Sixth Street along Princess Avenue.