While Hallowe’en hasn’t even come and gone, and hopefully a “winter wonderland” is a ways off yet, the local Business Improvement Association already is planning for the 51st-annual “Parade of Lights.”
The popular event, meant to kick off the holiday season in downtown Fort Frances, is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 29.
BIA co-ordinator Patti Anderson said the parade will be a little different this year in that instead of lining up at the Shevlin wood yard and heading west on Scott Street, it will start at the old CN station on Fourth Street, proceed up Central Avenue to Scott Street, and then travel east to the Memorial Sports Centre.
“The wood yard has been dangerous almost at times,” noted Anderson. “We need an atmosphere that’s a little more controlled and lit up.
“[The old CN station] seemed to be the smartest place to go.”
The parade lineup will begin in the late afternoon (3:30-4 p.m.), with the aim to get float judging done and the procession rolling by 5 p.m.
“I want to start early enough that it’s dark, but I don’t want it to be late,” stressed Anderson, adding ideally people will do some Christmas shopping that afternoon and then stay around for the parade, which will be arriving at Scott Street about the same time the stores close.
Adding to the Christmas-themed fun, the Fort Frances Museum will hold children’s activities, such as cookie decorating, on the day of the parade, as well as serve up hot cider before the parade so people can keep warm.
The theme for this year’s parade is “The Magic of Christmas,” which could lend itself to any number of interpretations.
Participants should keep in mind, however, that as a “Parade of Lights,” they’re encouraged use lots of lights on their floats (“The Magic of Christmas” theme also will tie into the BIA’s holiday ad campaign).
Anderson also said she’s looking for a service club, sports team, or other organization to take over the parade in the future, adding it’s not too late to jump aboard this year and help her out.
She explained organizing the parade only involves about a month of planning and a minimum advertising budget, and that volunteer manpower (to help with the lineup, judging, monitoring intersections, handing out candy, etc.) is only needed on the day of the event.
The organizer also has to provide prizes for the best floats.
While the BIA has been giving out “BIA Bucks” since taking over the parade from the Rotary Club, Anderson noted future prizes would at the discretion of the organizer, suggesting gifts or ribbons/tags (denoting 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, etc.) as possible alternatives.
As well, the organizer is responsible for the upkeep and storage of Santa Claus’ sleigh, which is always the final float each year.
In some communities, Anderson noted, groups take turns running the parade—and even have a sort of competition amongst themselves to outdo each other when it’s their turn.
She said the reason for wanting to hand off the parade is simply that the BIA’s budget is tight, and the money spent on the parade could be used to more directly market the downtown business community.
Anyone with questions about putting a float in the parade, or taking over organizing it, can call Anderson at 274-7502.
In related news, another downtown holiday tradition—“Cocoa and Cookies with Santa”—is scheduled for the following Saturday (Dec. 6) from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Fort Frances Museum.
Youngsters will be able to drop in, have a snack with the jolly old elf while they tell him what they want for Christmas, and also have their picture taken with him.