'Stand still' Santa Claus parade for Gananoque
Many Christmas parades and events have been cancelled throughout the region during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the town of Gananoque is moving forward with a holiday tradition, albeit a bit differently.
The first annual festival of lights event is being called a "stand still" Santa Claus parade.
"We obviously had the original plan for a great big huge festival and unfortunately COVID-19 hit," said Amy Kirkland, Executive Director of the 1000 islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce.
"I decided that I still did not want to cancel it. We need Christmas more than anything."
Parade floats will be parked on one side of King Street East, and families will drive through the event on the other side.
"We’ll have the parade viewers drive up the westbound lane so that they’ll still be able to see the big man, Santa Claus," Kirkland said.
"He’s going to be arriving by horse and buggy after our stand still parade is complete, and he’ll be going throughout the community waving at all the kids and bringing holiday cheer."
The event has been given the ok by the local health unit and all protocols will be in effect like contact tracing.
"The main thing is to be safe. Provide a platform for people to come and be safe and also for people who are participating in it," said Bill Stewart, business development policy officer with the chamber.
"I think our local chamber, being a really strong champion of business and the business community in general, it’s a great chance to get everybody together and bring some seasonal joy at a very different time."
Only six floats have registered since the parade was announced, but Kirkland says there is room for many more.
"I’m hoping for at least 100 floats, minimal 60. Our registration is now open and my email is bouncing. People just want to get in, so I'm very excited about that.”
For people without a vehicle, walk throughs will be allowed, but limited to only 100 people.
"They are allowed to walk up, but again we have to remain socially distanced and masked throughout the parade route," Kirkland said.
Reaction from residents has been mostly positive as well.
"I think it’s wonderful, as long as it’s safe distancing. The kids need that," said one woman.
"It means a lot,” said another, walking along King Street East. "People want to go out and see other people and experience something together and getting them into the Christmas mood. So if there is a safe way to do that fantastic."
Downtown resident Stephanie Wardman is disappointed, saying a regular parade could still have been done safely.
"it’s outdoor, you know, something we can actually do during COVID. I feel like its pretty low risk and it wont quite be the same," Wardman said.
"I probably won't load four kids into a van to drive through a parade. Its kind of chaotic."
"It’s been really positive," said Stewart, who noted that other municipalizes have also been in touch to ask about the chambers idea.
"We’ve been able to reach out to people in different communities who have been interested in what we are doing because unfortunately as is the case, a lot of the municipalities around us have cancelled this year."
"People are really excited that we, because other neighbouring communities have cancelled their events, that we are still brining it to them," added Kirkland.
"It’s so imperative that we kind of kick COVID to the side, we’re going to have something and we’re going to work around it. And that’s been our motto since it started."