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COLUMN: Evening parade helps light way for holiday season

'I won’t lie — I was a skeptic. For me, the idea of a nighttime parade was worrisome,' admits reporter Nikki Cole, who has been converted
Around 60 floats taking part in the 2023 Barrie Santa Claus Parade twinkled from bumper to bumper.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of covering my very first Barrie Santa Claus parade and, I have to say, I was impressed.

Over the last 20 years, I have covered parades in all of the communities I have worked in, but this is the first time I have covered one in the evening.

I won’t lie — I was a skeptic. For me, the idea of a nighttime parade was worrisome — both from the perspective of a parent who dreads the additional hyperactivity of attempting to put kids to bed after they’ve hit that wall of beyond tiredness, and as the type of adult who much prefers to stay in once the sun has set.

I imagined children lining up along the route, whining about being cold given the lack of sunshine, and truly wondered how an evening parade would fare given all of the potential downfalls that could accompany it.

'Cousin Eddy' waves to the crown on Saturday night. | Nikki Cole/BarrieToday

Well, given the fact that thousands of families with kids, ranging from infants to fully grown adults, lined the approximately two-kilometre parade route this past weekend to see their friends and families atop the six dozen floats, it appears that I may be one of the last ones to come around to the concept.

Each float was lit up from bumper to bumper with Christmas lights and various themes, from full-sized gingerbread houses and a live band to the classic 1989 John Hughes classic National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation scene with 'Cousin Eddie' out on the lawn in his bathrobe and the electrocuted cat (which I didn’t even notice until I got home and was editing photos).

My favourite of all, however, with the obvious exception, as the star of the show, was the twinkling robots decorating a tree, courtesy of Prodomax.

Little did I know at the time but that “bright idea” was actually the brainchild of the husband of a good friend of mine. It was extremely clever, fun and, I can only imagine, took a lot of commitment by those involved to bring it to fruition.

All of the 60 floats showed creativity and a real commitment to give spectators exactly what they had come for: A parade of lights! 

Seeing the excitement on all of the little kids' faces as they anxiously awaited the Man in Red to appear, and then hearing the crowd chant for Santa when volunteers announced he was almost about to appear, definitely helped get me into the holiday spirit this year. 

However, I did miss the flipping of the switch for the enormous Christmas tree located in downtown Barrie's Meridian Place. (Note to organizers: maybe give the folks situated at the end of the route a few more minutes to gather up their belongings and make their way down to the square to enjoy the spectacle that is a 35-foot tree lit up like a, well, Christmas tree.)

But for anyone who hasn’t seen it alight at night, I highly recommend you make your way downtown over the next month or so to take a peek. It truly is stunning.

The city did a wonderful job capping off the festivities with a fireworks display over the lake. You could hear many “oohs” and “ahhs” as they exploded in the night sky.

I had intended on snapping my photographs and dashing home, but the music from My Son the Hurricane had me lingering longer than I had planned. What a great band to get the crowd in a jovial mood to stick around, dance and enjoy all that was being offered. 

So kudos to the Barrie Chamber of Commerce for all the hard work putting together this year’s event, and all of the challenges that came with it. 

I know from speaking with officials that a lot of work goes into creating an event of this magnitude, so from a first-time evening parade-goer who has now been converted to your side, I say good job. What a wonderful way to light up the way into the upcoming holiday season.

I look forward to seeing what you and all of the volunteers do next year to make it even better!

Nikki Cole is a staff reporter at BarrieToday.

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About the Author: Nikki Cole

Nikki Cole has been a community issues reporter for BarrieToday since February, 2021
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