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Crowds come out for Santa parade despite downpour

Plenty of umbrellas line parade route along Belleville Street and Government Street in Victoria.

Santa Claus braved the elements and the atmospheric river Saturday evening as he made his way down Government Street through a large crowd of umbrella-toting families as the Peninsula Co-op Santa Light Parade returned to the city after a year off.

Cancelled last year due to the pandemic, the parade returned despite some concerns heavy precipitation could dampen the affair too much.

Kelly Kurta, executive ­director of the Greater Victoria Festival Society, which organizes the parade, said they got the message loud and clear Saturday morning from people downtown and on the phone that the parade must go on.

“So come hell or high water it’s happening,” she said.

Kurta said the parade was a bit smaller this year and a few entries had to cancel.

“One was a drum line, I understand,” she said.

But at 5:30 p.m., 55 parade entries started making their way along Government Street past kids playing in puddles and a large, somewhat socially distant, crowd.

“There’s Santa, lights and music, what else could you want,” said Kurta.

There were bands, whose horns no doubt felt heavier as they took on water, floats, and trucks lit up from bumper to bumper. Harbour Ferries, transit buses, fire and police vehicles were all dressed to the nines for the night. A float designed by Galey Farm, featuring a train, was among the most extravagantly lit.

There were dancers, prancers, carollers and of course the man himself, St. Nick, accompanied by Mrs. Claus, and a pair of reindeer.

Kurta said they anticipated having about a third of the usual crowd of 60,000 along the parade route, that runs from the corner of Government and Belleville down Government to Pembroke Street.

“At the end of the day we live on the West Coast and people drive to Tofino and Port Renfrew to storm watch,” she said.

Food and cash donations for the Mustard Seed were being accepted near the parade start area, while toys and cash were collected for the Helmet Head Toy Run benefiting Victoria General Hospital and Jeneece Place.

The toy run is named for the ­Helmet Head Canada motorcycle group, known for decorating their ­helmets with Sesame Street characters.

Esquimalt and Sooke both have parades scheduled for Dec. 5.

The 15th annual Esquimalt Celebration of Lights Parade starts at 5 p.m. at Canteen Road and heads to the Archie Browning Sports Centre via Esquimalt Road, while the Sooke Santa Parade also begins at 5 p.m. and runs from Sooke Elementary School to Townsend Road.

In Sidney, the annual Sidney Sparkles Christmas Parade has been cancelled by the Peninsula Celebrations Society. The society said in a statement that it made the decision “due to an abundance of caution surrounding COVID-19.”