Scores of people take in parade, lights festival in Owen Sound
Holidays, Winter

Denis Langlois, The Owen Sound Sun Times, Nov 21, 2021


Kris Kringle waves to children along the route of the 76th annual Kiwanis Owen Sound Santa Claus parade Saturday evening. DENIS LANGLOIS
Kris Kringle waves to children along the route of the 76th annual Kiwanis Owen Sound
Santa Claus parade Saturday evening. DENIS LANGLOIS

The holiday season kicked off in Owen Sound with an energetic, illuminated nighttime parade, roaring campfires by city hall, fireworks over the Sydenham River and ceremonial lighting of kilometres of festive displays.

Saturday saw the convergence of three events — the River District’s Holiday Magic, the Kiwanis Owen Sound Santa Claus Parade and the opening of the Festival of Northern Lights. “It was exhilarating; so full of happiness,” said Charlene Keill-Sylvest, who brought her five grandchildren to the evening festivities in the city’s downtown.

Organizers of both the 76th annual parade, which began after sunset instead of the usual 10 a.m. and the 34th annual festival said they think the events attracted record crowds this year.

“The streets of Owen Sound were just packed,” said parade chair Tim Brown.

“Comments from guys who have been around longer than I have say they think it’s the biggest crowd we’ve ever had downtown. There were points where I would say people were eight to 10 people deep along the side of the road and the sidewalks.”

He said he thinks a combination of factors resulted in bringing more people out.

“One is the nighttime parade making it a bit more interesting. I think it’s COVID and some areas aren’t having parades. But I think a big thing is the co-ordination we had with the city and the Festival of Northern Lights of putting on a whole afternoon and evening of events.”

Festival of Northern Lights chair Jamie Walpole said the “turnout was tremendous” to watch Santa and the Grinch flip the ceremonial switch as well as the fireworks over the Sydenham River.

“I think this year was bigger than we’ve ever had,” he said. “We could certainly tell once the Santa Claus parade finished. There was just a flood of people coming and getting ready and enjoying the music and watching the fireworks and the lights come on.”

The crowds were back this year after 2020 saw the Kiwanis Club of Owen Sound hold a scaled-down, drive-thru parade in the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre’s parking lot and the Festival of Northern Lights cancel their opening ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was entering its second wave at the time.

Many people, especially while in the bigger crowds, wore masks Saturday.

The Holiday Magic event began at 2 p.m. and included campfires in front of city hall, an illusionist, buskers, photos with Santa and more.

Then, just before 5 p.m., town crier Bruce Kruger announced the start of the Kiwanis Santa Claus Parade with the ringing of his bell near Metro.

Seventy entries — from floats and marching bands to emergency vehicles and clowns — followed, traversing through Owen Sound’s downtown.

The parade also featured special guests, including Owen Sound native and CBC anchor Heather Hiscox, the Coca-Cola Canada Holiday Truck and, of course, Santa Claus on his rooftop sleigh at the end of the procession.

The Turner family of Tara wore Santa hats and face masks while watching the parade. Their French bulldog Rémy was sporting a festive plaid collar and green antlers.

Katie Turner said her family loves going to the Owen Sound parade, where they often bump into people they know. “It’s the biggest parade in the area for sure,” she said.

They planned to watch the opening of the Festival of Northern Lights afterwards.

Cassandra Goodfellow, who went to the parade with her partner Cory Baker and their five children, said her family loved the nighttime parade.

“The lights and music were amazing. The parade was extremely creative and great choices in music. My favourite was the live band playing and rocking out on the float,” she said.

“There was a lineup of kids yelling Santa, Santa, Santa, which led to many other children, including ours cheering on Santa. It was great to see our city coming together for a Christmas celebration the way it did. It was the best one in years.”

After the parade, the Coca-Cola Holiday Truck parked at the Owen Sound Farmer’s Market as part of the Holiday Magic event.

People could pose for selfies with the iconic transport, which featured prominently in Coca-Cola Christmas time television commercials in the mid-1990s, and local Coca-Cola employees provided giveaways.

The truck is now on a cross-country tour of Canada — the first ever — to create a “movement of togetherness” during the pandemic, according to the company.

“During COVID, it’s a good thing to up peoples’ spirits. It’s a free-of-charge event that we offer locally with our staff and it’s an opportunity to see a really unique thing that’s been a staple of North America in TV and other stuff for the last three or four decades,” said Rob Dube, Coca-Cola’s district sales manager for Owen Sound. The River District’s event continued until 9 p.m., capping off with a performance by the Honey Hammers. Participating businesses in the district stayed open late.

Viveca Gravel, community development co-ordinator, said the event appears to have been a “great success.

“After 20 months of unknowns, people seemed thrilled by the carefully constructed normalcy,” she said.

This was the first time the local Kiwanis Club, Festival of Northern Lights and River District collaborated to bring the community a kick-off to the holiday season, she said.

“And based on last night’s feedback, we suspect it won’t be the last time,” she said.

Walpole said the Festival of Northern Lights will continue until Jan. 2, with the displays illuminated nightly from 5 to 10 p.m.

There are several new displays, including three automated baby dinosaurs at Harrison Park, and new painted displays, such as Shrek and Donkey, the Grinch and his dog Max and, in Harrison Park, Elsa, Anna and Olaf from Frozen.


Family grouped together
The Turner family of Tara, including French bulldog Remy wearing green antlers, pose for a photo
before the start of the 76th annual Kiwanis Owen Sound Santa Claus Parade. DENIS LANGLOIS
Holiday Promotional Coke truck
The iconic Coca-Cola Holiday Truck makes its way through downtown Owen Sound Saturday
evening as part of the 76th annual Kiwanis Owen Sound Santa Claus Parade. DENIS LANGLOIS
clowns walking down the street
A pair of clowns wave at the crowds of people watching the 76th annual Kiwanis Owen Sound
Santa Claus parade Saturday evening. DENIS LANGLOIS

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