The Downtown Christmas Parade is the biggest of its kind on the island, the annual event sees upwards to 50,000 spectators flock to the heart of our province’s capital city for a festive spectacle, which also happens to directly benefit a worthy cause.
Marketing, Special Events, Media Relations Manager for Downtown St. John’s Gaylynne Lambert caught up with The Herald for a peak behind the curtain into this year’s anticipated edition of a home-grown favourite.
“What I always say and will say again is that the St. John’s Office of North Pole Operations is in full swing and it has been,” Lambert shared. “It never really closes because there’s always preparations and people calling and questions that occur all year round. ”
While the event itself has been steadily climbing in attendance for years now, organizers have made a conscious effort to put quality over quantity when it comes to which floats and segments actually take the street come parade day.
quality over quantity
“From a perspective of spectators there’s more and more people every year. It could be as high as 50,000. In terms of the length of the parade we try to limit that,” Lambert says. “It was an enormous size in length at one point in time, but people don’t want to stand on the sidewalk for three hours and watch the Christmas Parade. They’re coming down early enough to get their favourite spot, have a hot chocolate and walk around and maybe do a little bit of shopping. We try to limit the parade to a length where if that you’re standing at a particular point on the sidewalk by the time the first float passes by you right up until the time the last float passes by you it’s like an hour. So what we’ve done in the last five years is try to have quality over quantity. That’s what we’ve really tried to work on.”
While past years have employed different themes for particular editions of the event, organizers have now aimed for more of a mandate where Christmas comes first. As long as its Christmasie, festive and appeals to children, it’s fair game.
“It’s an event for children. We’ve kind of stripped down to the bones of what we call a theme for the parade … As long as it’s basically displaying some element of Christmas and is designed with kid appeal. Your basic imagination can just go wild and it leaves it open to all sorts of ideas.”
Outside of the basic aesthetic appeal of the event, the Downtown Christmas Parade serves as a fantastic charitable outlet, with thousands of dollars worth of donations (both monetary and otherwise) raised for worthy causes.
“Within a couple of hours along the parade route Newfoundland Power employees collect usually $20,000 or more in cash donations and 20,000 pounds or more of food and that goes to a community sharing association which services food banks all across the province,” Lambert shared proudly.
“We kind of see it as more of a community event rather then a St. John’s event. It’s organized here and occurs here but its impact is felt across the province. It makes an impact and puts food on the table for the people who need it, in the time of the year when resources are so stretched.”
Lambert notes that much of the parades success and continued longevity can be attributed to the strong sense of community involvement.
“Our parade is a true, true community event,” she said.
“When you look at ours compared to say, the Toronto Parade, the Toronto Parade is a business that operates all year round. They’ll have a warehouse and a staff of designers, float-builders and carpenters who go to work and build floats. Here being a true community event it’s the community that builds the floats or puts the walking groups or the bands or cheerleaders and dancing groups into the parade.
“It’s a true community event and it’s only as good as the community that supports it. Because we are the organizers and facilitators that make it all happen, but it’s an event that belongs to the community, I think that creates a lot of strong feelings about it. People have an attachment to the event.”
The Downtown Christmas Parade takes place Nov 27th and will air Dec 11th on NTV. For everything you need to know about one of the years biggest events visitdowntownstjohns.com/play/christmas