Santa’s Light Parade on Saturday helps to launch festive season in Victoria

Billed as the kickoff to Christmas in Victoria and Canada’s largest nighttime parade, the Island Farms Santa’s Light Parade makes its way down Government Street on Saturday starting at 5 p.m.

The parade starts at Government and Belleville streets and ends at Fisgard Street.

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After that, the public is invited to visit the second annual Thrifty Foods Christmas Square — set in Centennial Square — where cookies and milk will be handed out to children by Santa himself.

Christmas Square runs from 4-8:30 p.m. and will also feature food trucks, entertainment, bouncy castles, face painting and crafts provided by Home Depot. The lights in the square are set to be turned on at 7 p.m.

This is the 38th year for the parade, which became a night event in 1998.

Close to 70 entries — about 20 of them floats — involving more than 2,200 participants will be in the parade this year, said Kelly Kurta, executive director of the Greater Victoria Festival Society.

There will be some standouts, she said.

“You’re definitely going to want to watch for the Department of National Defence,” said Kurta, noting the DND entry could have up to 80,000 lights.

The Township of Esquimalt has a new float, and Ali Baba Pizza is back and will be handing out samples along the route, she said.

Stages Performing Arts School will take its usual place in the parade, leading the Country Grocer entry in a combined effort that Kurta said will be a “huge hit.”

“Stages is going to go straight into the square and perform right before the tree light-up,” Kurta said.

Leading Santa as he brings up the rear of the parade will be a motorcycle group called Helmet Head Canada.

“They’re doing a toy run on the day of the parade, so we’re asking everybody to bring down a new or gently used toy, along with their Mustard Seed donation, to drop at Christmas Square,” Kurta said. “And those toys are going straight to Victoria General Hospital.”

Collecting donations of non-perishable food items is a long-standing tradition at the parade. Donations will be gathered along the route and can also be taken to the square.

Belleville will be closed between Government and Menzies Street at 3 p.m., the same time that marshalling starts around the legislature area.

As well, Menzies will be closed between Belleville and Superior Street, and Government will be closed between Belleville and Superior.

Government Street will remain open north of Belleville until 4:30 or 4:45 p.m.

Saturday’s forecast is for clear skies.

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