By Jessica Lovell
If there is a theme to this year’s Guelph Community Santa Claus Parade, it might be best described as “let us entertain you.”
Businesses and organizations entering this year’s parade on Nov. 18 have been dealt a whole new list of rules this year, and at the top of the list: Entries must be entertaining.
“I just want you to be engaging with the audience,” says Sam Jewel, events co-ordinator with the Downtown Guelph Business Association, which is hosting the parade.
The business association took over hosting duties last year from the now disbanded Kinsmen, but kept things much the same, leaning heavily on the former organizers to learn how it’s done.
This year promises to be a bit different, and the reason for the change: “Because we’re able to give the time to make the change happen,” says Jewel.
She acknowledges the hard work that the Kinsmen, Kinettes and other volunteers have put into organizing the parade over the years. Jewel noted that it’s a tough task staging the Santa Clause parade with only volunteers.
Former Kinsman Mike Campbell agrees. “We were lucky just to raise enough money to pay the bands to be here,” he says. “With the amount of work that’s involved, it just really got stagnant.”
Campbell is still involved with the parade, only now it’s with the Ariss Lions Club, which handles the all-important Santa float. The club went to extra effort to gussy up Santa’s sleigh two years ago, and he hopes this year’s float will be even better.
At the Downtown Guelph Business Association, Jewel is doing the same thing with hopes that all the entries will be better than ever. She’s been working on parade planning since about May in hopes of getting businesses and other organizations thinking about their floats early on, and in hopes that they would have time to prepare their entries when they saw the new list of rules. Included now is an entry fee to take part – money that goes directly into the “parade improvement fund.” And anyone in the parade must have a costume, and entries must entertain.
“We are very much coming away from the commercial aspect of the parade,” Jewel says. “If you still want to promote your business, you have to do it in a fun, interesting and entertaining way.”
And parade organizers are there to help, she says.
“We have given elf costumes to the Humane Society,” she says, providing just one example of how the business association is helping people prepare.
The organization has offered up help with everything, from sourcing inexpensive costumes to connecting people with creative volunteers who can help with making floats.
Guelph is a city filled with talented artists, and the business association saw the parade as an opportunity to showcase their talents, says Jewel. “The pool of talent needs to be exploited,” she says.
The business association will be entering its own float this year that does just that. The organization is using a design by artist local Cai Sepulis to form the basis of its float.
The pieces will be made by volunteers at Diyode Community Workshop. People from downtown businesses ride the float, although how they will be costumed and what they will be doing up there will have to be a surprise, says Jewel.
“It’s going to be beautiful; it’s going to have some kind of animation; it’s going to have streetlights; it’s going to be cool,” she says.
Other highlights include: Guelph Marlins Aquatic club will be bringing its own Olympic swimmer, complete with podium; the Shakespeare Arms will be featuring a Shakespeare Christmas; the Guelph Humane Society will be bringing some lovable canines; and a local church will be out with a live camel.