Sand, Santa Claus and a St. Thomas parade unlike any before it

St. Thomas is turning up the heat this holiday season, trading in snow for sand and palm trees at its first Santa Claus Parade since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Organizers at the Optimist Club of St. Thomas are marking the parade's 36th year with a Caribbean Beach Party Christmas theme.

"We've had Santa's workshop and North Pole," but never a beach-themed Christmas, parade committee member Earl Taylor said.

"We're seeing lots of floats that will have Tiki huts, and we've even brought in the Toronto Steel Drum Band," he said. "Whether we have anybody show up in their bathing suit, we'll wait and see."

Saturday's free parade will start downtown at Talbot Street and First Avenue at 6 p.m., then head west on Talbot to Elgin Street.

Paradegoers are asked to bring non-perishable goods and cash donations that will be collected by the St. Thomas Fire Department. Last year, the Optimist Club saw massive success with its stationary drive-by parade at Pinafore Park, where attendees dropped off about $20,000 and tonnes of food items.

"The . . . fire department, (which) always collects the food and cash donations for Christmas Care and the food bank, lucked out tremendously. Their numbers skyrocketed," Taylor said.

"Hopefully, this year, with our normal parade, people will still be in that mode of giving."

Saturday's parade will have at least 55 floats, from bands, local agencies, emergency responders and other participants. With entries still coming in Wednesday evening and plenty of online buzz about the event, organizers expect to match, or surpass, previous years' turnouts.

"It's going to be a back-to-normal, phenomenal parade this year," Taylor said.

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What: 36th Annual Optimist Santa Claus Parade in St. Thomas

When: Saturday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m.

Where: Talbot Street and First Avenue, then west along Talbot to Elgin Street

Online: optimistsantaclausparade.ca

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press