The minute last year’s Parade of Lights was over, groups started thinking about how to design show-stopping floats for this year’s Nov. 24 parade.
“They have a look at all the other groups and sit there mesmerized by each other more than anything,” said Bob Rainboth, chairman for Santa’s Parade of Lights. “It creates a rivalry.”
Last year’s groups will be out to beat the 2011 grand champion, the Navan Lions Club. Awards were also given out to best band, elementary school, high school and Christmas spirit, among others.
Rainboth, a firefighter in Orléans, organizes the parade with the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association.
Now in its 15th year, the three-kilometre parade through Orléans attracts huge crowds, making it a family tradition for many.
Families come from all over the city and surrounding towns to see the giant parade, Rainboth said.
Some groups put hundreds of hours into their elaborate floats, competing with one another for who can show up with the best spirit.
“Some people like to tinker year round,” he said. ‘Some people go hard for a week or two.”
Rainboth has been organizing the evening parade ever since it started, and has seen its success grow.
Many groups return year after year, bringing new twists to their entries.
The firefighters’ association has its own float with snow-making machines, which children ride on while the firefighters collect donations.
“(The snow) just flings out – it’s quite a showstopper,” he said.
As for other community floats?
“I don’t like to give secrets out,” Rainboth said, adding there was “a lot of really cool stuff coming.”
Firefighters will be collecting both new toys, without wrapping paper, and cash donations for Christmas presents for children in need. They have a partnership with toy wholesalers to purchase additional toys with the donations.
Olympic athletes Michael Tayler, Angus Mortimer, Steven Jorens and Dominique Bosshart will serve as honorary parade marshals, with the Governor General’s Foot Guards and the Kemptville Legion Pipe Band both participating.
The parade will shut down St. Joseph Boulevard on Nov. 24 at 6 p.m. sharp, running from Youville Drive to Centrum Boulevard.
Because of the road closures, parking and the large number of attendees, Rainboth recommended that people arrive between 5 and 5:30 p.m.
“After 5:30, the roads slowly start shutting down,” he said. “But because of St. Joseph Boulevard being the way it is, it’s the perfect opportunity to grab a drink or get a bite to eat. By default, we’re helping the area.”
There is no fundraising goal, with organizers instead focused on bringing the community together to get into the Christmas spirit.
“More than anything, I want people to come and be a part of this,” he said.