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Santa Claus Parade 2011: ‘5 miles of smiles’

Festive lights, giant floats, candy canes and elves took over the streets of downtown for the 2011 edition of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.

Now in its 107th year, what began as a march by Santa and the Eaton family from Union Station up to their Toronto store has become one of the largest of its kind anywhere on the planet — comprised of 26 floats, 21 marching bands, thousands of smiling volunteers and in the process kick-starting the holiday season.

The parade left Christie Pitts at 12:30 p.m. worked its way down to St. Lawrence Market.

“It’s five miles of smiles,” Ron Barbaro, co-chair of the parade, told CityNews.

This year, for the first time in its history, Mrs. Claus joined Santa at the end of the parade — and she even had her very own float (a replica of their home in the North Pole).

“This excitement [of seeing Santa] surmounts almost anything else,” Barbaro said.

Also new this year: the route.

Instead of turning right on Yonge Street, the parade headed south on University at the Royal Ontario Museum. It then made a left at Wellington and continued towards St. Lawrence Market.

This route, organizers say, allows for more space for some of the extravagant floats and also accommodates more people. For the full route, click here.

Technology also played a key role in this year’s event. There was a camera attached to Santa’s float called the Santa Cam, capturing members of the crowd waiving and enjoying the parade. It is available to download for free on the parade website after the parade winds up.

“It’s been 107 years now and the parade has changed 107 times, getting better each time,” Barbaro said.

Nicole Spiteri, a Ryerson student from Brampton, gets nostalgic around this time of year when thinking about her time at the parade with her family.

“Some of my fondest childhood memories from the holidays are from the Toronto Santa Claus Parade,” she said.

“We would spend the day in Toronto, get hot chocolate, and if my sister and I weren’t too tired from the parade we would go skating in Nathan Phillips Square after … It’s definitely something that I will take my children to one day.”

A key component of the parade’s success is its volunteers — more than 3,000 in total, with a large portion made up of children.

Barbaro believes that getting kids involved in the parade is a really positive experience.

“Many of the children sitting on the float waive to the audience. This is their first time volunteering and they get instant payback,” he says. “And maybe after they’ll want to go on and get involved in the community.”

ROAD CLOSURES

12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Bloor Street West from Ossington Avenue to Christie Street

12:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Bloor Street West, from Christie Street to Queens Park
Queens Park/University Avenue from Bloor Street West to Wellington Street West
Wellington Street West from University Avenue to Church Street

2:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Front Street East, from Church to Jarvis
Scott Street, from Wellington to Front

For a timeline looking back at the Santa Claus Parade’s major milestones and accomplishments, click here. To view photos of the event over the years, click here.

What are your memories of the Santa Claus Parade? Share them with us below in the comments section.