Santa Claus makes rare appearance at pandemic-era parade

·2 min read

Jolly old St. Nick made an appearance in Cornwall, Ont., this weekend for a physically-distanced Santa Claus parade — a celebration that's become a rarity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The "reverse" parade — which had the blessing of local public health officials — featured stationary floats which spectators drove past in their own vehicles, all part of a plan to keep people safe and crowds to a minimum.

At the front of the line was the big man himself, Santa Claus, alongside his wife, Mrs. Claus.

"It's been a difficult year," Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement said. "And children and teachers in particular have been troopers as they've gone back to school."

"And we want to make sure that they have family time, that they enjoy Christmas and Santa."

Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada
Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada

Health unit ensured rules were followed

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), which covers Cornwall, is currently considered to be a yellow zone, the second-lowest level on Ontario's pandemic alert scale.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, the top doctor for the EOHU, made sure the proper protocols were followed, Clement said.

Other cities in eastern Ontario have chosen not to host parades during the pandemic. In Ottawa, the organizers of the annual Help Santa Toy Parade — one of a number held each year in the nation's capital — decided in September to call off this year's event.

Kingston, Ont., chose to cancel its annual parade as well.

Clement said her city felt it was important to still honour the tradition, as long as it was done safely and with the health unit's approval.

'We are celebrating Christmas'

While Santa Claus likely travelled the longest distance to make the event, he wasn't alone.

Sue Torrance came from Prescott, Ont., about an hour's drive away, to see the floats decorated with lights.

"Our community doesn't have one," she said. "And we're doing it. We are celebrating Christmas."

Torrance said she felt the parade kept people protected, with attendees bubbled within their vehicles.

According to Clement, the parade's organizers held a similar event for Halloween and could be trusted to host Saturday's gathering safely.

"[Children] might get a candy cane, which is delivered in a very safe way," the mayor said. "It was important to continue to celebrate, even though it's different [this year]."