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(Posted 11:30 a.m., Dec. 1)
Thousands attend Parade of Lights to welcome St. Nick to Orléans

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Some of the younger participants in this year's Parade of Lights wave gigantic lollipops as their float makes its way down St. Joseph Blvd. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Thousands of people lined St. Joseph Boulevard on Saturday night to take in Santa's Parade of Lights and welcome the jolly old elf himself to Orléans.

The crowds didn't seem to mind the temperature, which dipped below -10 degrees, as a steady stream of mulit-lighted floats drove by and Christmas music filled the air. Nor did it prevent them from donating thousands of dollars and hundreds of toys collected by members of the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association along the entire length of the parade route.

This year's parade included 80 entries with participation from a number of local businesses, churches, high schools, service clubs and youth groups.

Each entry was festooned with strings of multi-coloured lights that were reflected in the faces of the crowd that lined the entire length of the route from Youville Drive to Place d'Orléans, especially the children whose faces grew brighter with each passing float.

There were entries from six different high schools including last year's Grand Champion, Cairine Wilson Secondary School, which this year adopted a Charlie Brown Christmas theme with Snoopy's dog house as the centrepiece.

This year's Parade of Lights included an incarcerated Grinch which drew loud cheers from the crowds lining the route. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Garneau, St. Peter, Gisele-Lalonde and Louis-Riel were each represented by floats built and decorated by students. The 832 Air Cadets and the 3018 Army Cadets also had strong entries as did Ecole de Danse Louise, Abiding Word Lutheran Church, Etoile de l'Est elementary school and Keller Williams Ottawa Realty. One float even featured the Grinch behind bars which drew both jeers and cheers.

But the loudest cheers were reserved for the 80th and last entry, Santa himself. Resplendent in his red suit trimmed in white, St. Nick waved at the adoring children who all waved back as he slowly made his way down St. Joseph.

For many of the people who lined the route, Santa's Parade of Lights is an annual tradition.

For others like Lisa and Sean Lavictoire who brought their three-year-old daughter Mackenzie to the parade for the first time, it's a tradition in the making.

"This is our first time as a family, but we came once before we got married," said Lisa. "I think it's amazing with all the different floats and so many businesses taking part. It really creates a great sense of community. We're definitely coming back next year."

While Santa was the star of the parade, the focus of the annual event is to raise money and collect toys for the Salvation Army which distributes them to financially challenged families across the region.

Thousands of toys and tens of thousands of dollars have been collected over the years, helping to make Christmas a little more joyous for financially challenged families across the region.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

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