Maybe it was the unseasonably warm weather, or maybe it was the fact that it's been three years since Santa's Parade of Lights was last held in Orléans. Most likely it was a combination of both that saw a record crowd turn out for this year's parade Saturday evening.
"It's the biggest crowd we've had... by far," said Bob Rainboth who has been organizing the parade for the past 25 years.
It was a balmy six degrees when the parade began at St. Joseph Blvd. and Youville Drive at 6:30 p.m. In past years it's been as cold as -15 degrees. At other times there's either been snow, or freezing rain, or both. On Saturday, there was neither, which was a blessing for both participants and observers alie..
At some points along the parade route such as the intersection of St. Joseph and Jeanne d'Arc the crowds were as much as 20 people deep and everyone was in a festive mood. Rainboth expects they were in a giving mood as well, as the procession is not just a parade, but a fundraising event for the Salvation Army's Toy Mountain.
Members of the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association collected donations in their boots which they carried along the parade. Judging by the amount of change that was being transferred from the boots to large five gallon buckets at the end of the route it will a record year for donations as well.
As for the parade itself, it didn't disappoint as more than 60 brightly lit entries formed the phalanx that took nearly an hour to make it's way from St. Joseph and Youville to Prestone Drive near the Orléans Town Centre.
One of the things that makes the parade so great is the level of particpation from area schools, churches and organizations like the Gloucester Griffins Lacrosse Club and the École Louise Dance School.
But the one entry everyone wanted to see was the man the parade is named after – Santa Claus himself. If you want to experience the parade throough a child's eyes then all you have to do is walk beside Santa's float and see the faces of the children lining the parade route light up brighter than the lights on the float itself. It is truly a magical experience as was this year's parade.