One by one, COVID-19 is taking out annual Santa Claus parades in the districts of Nipissing and Parry Sound.
The annual parades in North Bay and West Nipissing have been cancelled, it was previously announced. And now the parades in Burk's Falls and Sundridge are also gone.
Burk's Falls Mayor Cathy Still concedes “people will be disappointed,” but adds the organizing committee simply doesn't have enough people to ensure the public maintains social distancing when gathering to watch the parade.
Although the parade in Burk's Falls has been going on for many years, it became a nighttime activity when Danika Hammond took over as chair a few years ago.
And that switch made the event even more popular.
“When I took over, we had 17 to 20 floats. But when we switched to an evening parade, we had 54 floats,” Hammond says.
“And the number of people taking in the parade went from 60 to 100 depending on the weather when it was held during the day, to between 120 to 150 when it became a nighttime parade.”
Hammond believes the spike in participation is due to more companies being available to supply a float for a nighttime parade.
This would have been the third year for a nighttime parade in Burk's Falls, an event that regularly attracts visitors from Powassan to Huntsville.
The Sundridge, Strong and Joly Recreation Committee, which oversees the Sundridge parade, also cancelled its event.
“We can't have it,” said Strong Township Mayor Kelly Elik, who chairs the recreation committee.
“I know it's outside, but it causes people to gather.”
The Sundridge parade was scheduled for the second Saturday in December and also as an evening affair.
The parade traditionally made its way along Main Street, ending up at the local arena, where a 60-foot tree was lit up and the public could enjoy hot chocolate and hot dogs.
Elik says the tree will still be lit up, “but without the celebration.
” At this time, Elik says a date hasn't been set when the Christmas tree's lights will be turned on, but there will be a mailbox for kids to drop off their letters to Santa.
While it concedes that events like holiday parades are important to communities, the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit says it does “not recommend communities hold Santa Claus parades.”
Communities that decide to do so are advised to follow COVID-19 protocols on social distancing and the wearing of face coverings.
The health unit says two communities in the Peterborough area have figured out how to pull off a safe parade-type event.
For example, although Lindsay won't hold a parade in the traditional format, organizers are working on a way to have Santa and a handful of friends travel throughout the community.
And in nearby Lakefield, organizers are creating a reverse parade.
In this instance, the Lakefield Lions Club will put in place stationary Christmas floats along a specified street so the public can drive by to enjoy the spectacle.
Both approaches are designed to follow social-distancing rules.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget