This year’s theme for the 53rd-annual “Parade of Lights” was “The Lights & Sounds of Christmas,” and it was clear those who entered floats took the hint.
A procession of 21 floats, decked in multi-coloured lights and boasting live or recorded music, were watched by wide-eyed children and adults who lined the route late Saturday afternoon.
The parade was organized and sponsored by Causeway General Insurance Brokers Ltd. for the second-consecutive year, and co-organizer Brenda Kellar said it was a bona fide success despite being affected somewhat by the incident on the 800 block of Scott Street, where police were dealing with a man who had barricaded himself in a home.
“All in all, I was very happy with how it went,” she remarked.
“My day on Saturday was a little stressful, getting a call saying, ‘You may have to change the parade route,’” she admitted.
“Well, how do I change it when it’s in four hours?
“I can’t really change it, but I’ll end it a little earlier,” Kellar noted.
The parade, which ran south on Central Avenue and then east down Scott Street, was supposed to disband at the Memorial Sports Centre.
Instead, it ended at Armit Avenue, with the floats turning south and disbanding at the hospital parking lot.
At one point, Kellar also was concerned about traffic control because she did not know if police would be available to help due to the standoff.
“I want to thank Bob Petawanaqueb from the Couchiching Fire Department for helping out in a time of need [directing traffic at Central Avenue] when I didn’t really know if the police were going to have the manpower,” Kellar said.
“I just spotted him dropping kids off for a float and I said, ‘Hey you! Stop! Is there any chance you or anybody from the Couchiching Fire Department can help me out.’
“‘I don’t know if I am going to have police here, and that intersection, traffic needs to be stopped,’” she added.
“It was a pretty big concern, actually,” Kellar noted. “He said, ‘I’ll call the fire chief,’ and they said, ‘You know what? No problem.’
“He went and picked up a small rescue truck. The police were there, thank goodness, when the thing ended but Bob said, ‘I’ll do what you need.’”
The lineup started up at 3 p.m. at the old CN station. Judging took place at 4 p.m.
Prizes were awarded in six categories, with the winners being:
•Best recreational group float ($75)—Border Skating Club;
•Best business float ($75)—Shoppers Home Health Care;
•Best non-profit organization float ($75)—Girl Guides;
•Best church or school group float ($75)—Robert Moore Builders’ Club;
•Best presentation of music ($50)—Fort Frances High School “Saving Faces” group; and
•Best decorated individual ($25)—2010 “Fun in the Sun” mini-queen Aurora Hutton and mini-king Magnus Trembath.
The parade then got underway shortly after 5 p.m.
Kellar said the parade may start earlier next year as some of the children on floats—and those waiting along the route—were starting to get cold.
Taggs’ Source for Sports served up hot apple cider during the parade while free hot chocolate was given out at stands set up at Causeway Insurance, the Northwestern Health Unit parking lot, and the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce office.
(The stand at the health unit was run by Bethel Baptist Church while the other two were run by volunteers and sponsored by McDonald’s and Fort Frances General Supply).
“There was a very good response from that, keeping people warm,” said Kellar.
“It was something we tried and is something we’ll probably consider next year,” she noted.
Canada Post once again had its mail truck out and postal carriers collected children’s letter to Santa during the parade.
As well, the local Salvation Army and B93•FM were collecting non-perishable food items, toys, and cash for the Christmas hamper program.
Plenty of volunteers helped out with the parade, including the Muskie cheerleaders, who escorted Mr. and Mrs. Claus’ sleigh and handed out candy, several Muskie hockey players, various other Fort High students, and the Fort Frances Lakers.
Looking ahead to 2011, Kellar said she may look into changing the parade route. For instance, she has received a suggestion that the parade start at the same location but go along the waterfront instead of down Scott Street.
She noted organizers welcome input on any suggestions to improve next year’s parade, whether that input has to do with the theme, route, line-up, or any other aspect of the event.
Those with ideas can call her at Causeway (274-6688).