Sunday, August 2, 2015

Santa parade full of heart

While it was smaller than last year, the 55th-annual “Parade of Lights” still proved to be a shining example of Christmas spirit in Fort Frances.
As big, fluffy snowflakes fell on parade participants and spectators alike late Saturday afternoon, a procession of about a dozen floats and vehicles made their way down Scott Street from the Memorial Sports Centre to Mowat Avenue.

“There were some spectacular floats,” said Robin Payeur of Causeway General Insurance Brokers Ltd., which organized and sponsored the parade again this year.
“That one of the Nutcracker; that was one I thought was straight out of a big-city parade,” she enthused.
“I was like, ‘Wow, look at that!’ Even my granddaughter was like, ‘Oooh, the Nutcracker!’
“I was actually surprised at five she knows what that is,” Payeur admitted.
“I thought the floats were beautiful. They were just stunning,” added Payeur. “A lot of thought and effort went into them, and even though [the weather was blustery], people were singing and laughing.
“I thought it was great.”
Payeur noted the number of participants was down somewhat this year. Last year, there were less than 15 floats while there were more than 20 in 2010.
Payeur said a couple of people told her they felt the lesser participation somehow was connected to last week’s announcement regarding the mill, although she pointed out that news only broke Tuesday afternoon.
She said it’s more likely that many people are busy at this time of year and volunteers are a rare commodity.
The weather also may have been a factor.
“It might have been small but it was absolutely spectacular,” stressed Payeur.
There certainly was no shortage of people who came out to watch the parade. Last year, noted Payeur, the majority of spectators were concentrated in the more eastern half of Scott Street while the 200-300 block of Scott Street was “almost like a ghost town.”
This year, it was great to come downtown and see people downtown,” she remarked, noting she remembers years ago coming downtown to watch the parade in front of Stedmans and the sidewalks were packed.
Payeur said at least part of the attraction this year has to be attributed to the participation of groups and businesses that pitched in to enhance the parade experience.
The “Friends of the Fort Frances Museum” served up hot chocolate and cookies outside the museum just prior to the parade. And the Fort Frances Choraliers were hand to sing carols, which many people enjoyed.
The museum courtyard was decorated for the occasion, thanks to “Friends of the Museum” member Judy Kielczewski (who also made the cookies).
There even was an old-fashioned sleigh on hand for photos, courtesy of Bob Hamilton.
As well, Taggs Source for Sports served up hot apple cider and had so many people, they ran out. Bethel Baptist Church, meanwhile, gave out hot chocolate at the Northwestern Health Unit parking lot.
Payeur said the spirit of the event perhaps was best summed up by her co-worker Melissa Wiebe, who handed out candy along the parade route with Anthony Leek, president of the Liberal Kenora-Rainy River Provincial Riding Association.
“She comes in and she said, ‘If I wasn’t in the Christmas spirit before, I sure am now.’
“That’s what it’s about—it’s just fun,” Payeur added.
The parade theme this year was “A Christmas Story.” Float judges decided this year’s “Parade of Lights” award winners as follows:
•Best Church or School Group ($75)—St. Mary’s Youth Group;
•Best Non-Profit Organization ($75)—Fort Frances High School “The Mob(ilizers)”;
•Best Business ($75)—Duty Free Americas;
•Best Recreational Group ($75)—Rainy Lake Nordic Ski Club; and
•Best Decorated Individual ($25)—Bill and Marie Whiting.
The Fort Frances Lakers, the 908 Rainy Lake Air Cadet Squadron, and local Salvation Army led the procession, collecting non-perishable food items, toys, and cash donations.
The proceeds will be split between the Salvation Army, Sunset Country Métis, and United Native Friendship Centre food banks.
2012 Mini-King and Mini-Queen Even Bagacki and Serena Cousineau also made an appearance while Canada Post again collected children’s letters to Santa during the parade.

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