Nov 12

What Happened to Calgary’s Santa Claus Parade?

by Caralyn Macdonald · 8 comments

Now that all the Christmas decorations are showing up around the city, so are the questions about Calgary’s Santa Claus Parade.   Calgary has not had a Santa Claus Parade since November 2006.    Calgary, unlike other major cities in Canada, already has one rather large parade – The Stampede Parade.

The Santa Claus Parade was never run by the City of Calgary but a group of volunteers which started at the University of Calgary and then in the late 90’s was brought downtown by the Calgary Downtown Association (CDA), who ran it for five years.

Background on the CDA:
The CDA is a business revitalization zone (BRZ) and not a department within the City of Calgary.  It’s  funded 100% by the businesses in the downtown commercial core, not your residential tax dollars.  Our mandate is to promote the vitality in the downtown core.  The CDA supports a number of cultural events in the downtown area every year like the High Performance Rodeo.

As time went by we noticed that our wonderful volunteer committee was slowly dissolving, City of Calgary’s event fees and road closures were skyrocketing (prior to the new event stimulus), the amount of road/sidewalk closures due to construction made the route more challenging and safety became a concern. Also, there was a sharp decline in the number of  people / groups willing to be in the parade and finding the hundreds of volunteers to work the day of the parade was getting harder and harder.  For these reasons we made the difficult decision to not continue with the parade.

Although the parade was no longer occurring, we continued planning a holiday event downtown.  For 2007 and 2008, at Olympic Plaza,  we held the Season of Wonder free stage show with the Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede and Santa Claus.  In 2009, we had a variety of activities to celebrate the holiday season -Downtown Elves with free gifts, Christmas Carolers,  and ice sculptures (which were vandalized).  These two weeks of activities culminated with our Santa on 8th Ave event.  I am not sure if you have blocked last December’s weather from your mind, but it was snowy and cold (-40C) causing us to cancel the event, at the last minute, for the safety of everyone involved.

You may have also noticed that the downtown area has changed over the last five years, which has led the us to change our strategy when it comes to events.  Rather than hold a 1/2 day event, we have chosen to offer a full month of promotions to provide a continuous holiday experience for all Calgarians.  The promotions include a week of Ice Sculpture displays which will remain the whole month of December, our “Present Patrol”, festive banners and lights, and some great contests.  All the information will be available on our website November 22, 2010.

It seems like there may be an appetite to resurrect the parade in Calgary.  Although we cannot take the lead, we would  be more than willing to sit down with interested parties to share our past knowledge and learnings to help them get started.

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