The 112th Annual

Toronto Santa Claus Parade

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Parade Arrives at 12:30

Explore the rich history of the Parade.

The Volunteer Spirit

You may be surprised that the Santa Claus Parade is a not-for-profit organization and doesn’t receive any public funding. The Santa Claus Parade has been spreading joy for over 100 years, and has been made possible through the help of thousands of volunteers and sponsors since the first parade in 1913.

If we are to keep this great Canadian national treasure alive, we need your support now, more than ever. Please make a donation of any amount, so we can keep this great tradition going!

Our Board Members

Peter Beresford

President and CEO
  • Volunteer President, CEO and Board Member for 32 years
  • Member of Executive Committee
  • Chairman of B & G MicroMarketing Inc., a Sales and Marketing Consulting Firm
  • Former Global Executive with McDonalds Corp. for 31 years. Former Chairman and CEO for McDonalds UK and Executive Vice President for McDonalds Canada and Japan

Ross Morton

Executive Vice President
  • EVP, Director and Celebrity Clown of the Santa Claus Parade
  • Member of Executive Committee
  • Volunteer Celebrity Clown for 22 years and Board Member 3 years
  • Advisor, mentor, forensic expert and reassurer to the life insurance industry
  • Past includes international risk management, assisting new companies in 14 countries, senior executive roles, and speaking engagements in 45 countries
  • Farm boy from Harriston, Ontario

Jeff Griffiths

Executive Vice President, Finance and Administration
  • Volunteer Board Member at the Parade for over 25 years.
  • Member of Executive Committee
  • Auditor General of the City of Toronto since 2002
  • Former partner of one of the largest public accounting firms

Mike Bartlett

Executive Vice President
  • Member of Executive Committee
  • Senior Director of Corporate Responsibility for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and the Executive Director for the MLSE Foundation
  • Former Vice President of the Oakville Hospital Foundation
  • Has helped raise more than $60 million to support national and local causes and was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for his work on behalf of MLSE

Alfred Iannarelli

General Manager & Creative Director
  • Started with the Parade as a summer student in 1970
  • Has been the General Manager/Creative Director overseeing designs since 1983
  • Member of Executive Committee
  • Volunteer Chair of Seneca College’s Visual Merchandising Advisory Board for 15 years

Becky Conroy

Director, Sales & Sponsorship
  • Passionate kids content creator and sales professional with over 15 years experience in publishing, editorial, social media, marketing and media sales.
  • Board member for over 5 years
  • Currently Becky is the Content Caterpillar, helping clients with design, content creation, content marketing and social media.

Reid Ferguson

  • Volunteer for 15 years and a proud member of the Board of Directors for 2 years
  • Partner in Best Displays and Graphics for 8 years
  • The Santa Claus Parade is the best day of the year for many of our volunteers and as a board member I get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing all of the smiling children. It is a very rewarding experience

Barry Hillier

Director Marketing & Communications
  • Board Member for 5 years and co-chair of the Marketing Committee and Holly Jolly Fun Run
  • Founder of Dashboard, Glovebox and a Partner in Bumper
  • I love being part of a century old tradition that is the fabric of not only Toronto and the GTA, but Canada as well

Howard Ungerman

  • Board member of the Santa Claus Parade for 4 years
  • Serves on the Holly Jolly Fun Run Committee
  • Practicing law for 40 years

Dianne Schwalm

  • Volunteer Board Member for over 20 years
  • VP of Partnership/Development New Franchise Media Inc
  • Former Sr. VP of Marketing for Warner Bros Canada

Jeff Weiss

Director, Marketing & Communications
  • Board member for 5 years, Celebrity Clown and Volunteer for 7 years
  • President of Harbinger, a marketing communications agency specializing in brands targeting women
  • Former marketing executive with Sprint Canada, Danone, Gillette and Pepsi-Cola Canada


Ron Barbaro

  • Founded the Parade Organization in 1982 with George Cohon
  • Served as a Member of the Board and Co-Chairman from 1982 to 2014
  • Founded the Celebrity Clowns in 1983
  • Retired from the Board of Directors in 2014

George Cohon

  • Founded the Parade Organization in 1982 with Ron Barbaro
  • Served as a Member of the Board and Co-Chairman from 1982 to 2014
  • Retired from the Board of Directors in 2014

Honorary Directors

Ray Biggart

  • Served as an original Member of the Board from 1982 to 2013
  • Served as Secretary of the Board from 1982 to 2010
  • Retired from active duty on the Board in 2013 and was named Honourary Director

Irving Ungerman

  • Served as an Original Member of the Board from 1982 to 2009
  • Retired from active duty on the Board in 2009 and was named Honourary Director

Eric Conroy

  • Served as a Director of the Organization for 28 years from 1984 to 2012
  • Served as Executive Vice President and Director of Sales and Sponsorship from 2008 to 2012
  • Retired from active duty on the Board in 2012 and was named Honourary Director

The History

1913 - Historic Hooves
1913 - Historic Hooves

Eaton's arranged for Santa to be pulled by live reindeer, which had been imported from Labrador specifically for the Parade. The reindeer had a dedicated veterinarian who looked after them and supplied their special diet of moss. Following the Parade, the reindeer retired to the property of an Eaton's Executive outside Toronto. That year, children along the route started to march through the city along with Santa, stopping to dance and sing as they went. They dropped letters to Santa into baskets on poles carried by bearers. Every letter with an address received a personal response from Santa.

1917 - Birds of a Feather
1917 - Birds of a Feather

By this time, the Parade had seven floats starring nursery rhyme characters. The biggest float that year was a giant swan carrying a band of musicians and clowns, with Santa in the centre of it all. Mother Goose also became a Parade tradition, taking newer more elaborate forms each year.

1919 - Air Santa
1919 - Air Santa

This was the year Santa arrived by air. He touched down on the Aerodrome on Eglinton Avenue, seven years before Lindbergh arrived in Paris. He was to be pulled by horses with outriders dressed as lions. However, the horses balked at the costumes worn by the outriders and were subsequently banned from the Parade.

1925 - A Tale of Two Cities
1925 - A Tale of Two Cities

From 1925 to the late 1960s, the Toronto Santa Claus Parade floats were packed onto railway cars and shipped to Montreal for a Parade the following Saturday. That tradition eventually ended due to the FLQ bombings.

1929 - Escape from Depression Doldrums
1929 - Escape from Depression Doldrums

To escape from the realities of the Great Depression, families pressed their ears to the radio. Starting in the early 1930s, CFRB radio began broadcasting a month of dramatic programming that followed Santa's journey from the North Pole to Toronto. By the time the Parade took place, children and adults alike were beyond excitement. Santa brought with him a magic and mystery that gave everyone hope.

1939 - World War Spirit
1939 - World War Spirit

During World War II when materials were scarce, most of the Parade costumes were made of paper. A big draw during this period was for children to watch the Parade from office buildings along the route. All the windows facing South were crowded with children, including the Park Plaza Hotel (today's Park Hyatt).

1948 -
1948 - 'Punkinhead' is Born

In 1948 Eaton's published a children's book called Punkinhead, the Sad Little Bear. It was about a teddy bear who wanted to be in the Santa Claus Parade. Eaton's published several books of Punkinhead's adventures, as well as colouring books, records and television commercials. He was so well-known that children cheered him when he marched in the Parade.

1950 - Santa on the Small Screen
1950 - Santa on the Small Screen

By 1950, the Eaton's Santa Claus Parade was the largest in North America and was first televised on CBC in 1952. For years after that, the Parade was filmed and packaged for schools with professional narration by such well-known broadcasters as Byng Whitteker and Don Harron.

1957 - The Parade Grows
1957 - The Parade Grows

There were 13 large floats in the 1957 Parade and nearly 20 smaller floats with two horse-drawn carriages. Two thousand people marched in the Parade that year, with the majority from Metropolitan Toronto Secondary Schools led by 30 teacher Parade marshals. The Parade was six miles long and began at 8:30AM - after two solid hours of makeup and dressing

1976 - Popularity Demands Longer Route
1976 - Popularity Demands Longer Route

More than 30 million people across North America watched the Eaton's Santa Claus Parade on television. In 1976, there were 33 small and large floats in the Parade, with room for more than 200 children on the floats and 500 marchers. The route was lengthened to 7.5 miles to allow for larger crowds.

1980 - The Parade Goes Global
1980 - The Parade Goes Global

1980 marked the 75th anniversary of the Parade and 1,700 volunteers participated in the 'Parade Salute', a special theme to mark the year. The Parade featured floats for Canada's major regions, including the Prairies, the Yukon, the West and East coasts. Punkinhead lead a float carrying children from 24 countries to honour the International Year of the Child.

1982 - Businesses Rally to Save the Parade
1982 - Barbaro and Cohon save the Parade

Eaton's announced it was withdrawing from sponsorship of the Parade after 77 years.

Within three days, Ron Barbaro and George Cohon formed a not-for-profit Organization and became Co-Chairmen and Founders.

Together, they signed 20 Companies to sponsor floats in the first year.

The tradition of the Celebrity Clowns began in 1983, when more than 60 Executives paid $ 1,000 each to hand out baloons, march and entertain kids along the Parade route.

1985 - Turning the Lights On
1985 - Turning the Lights On

The lights around Queen's Park Circle were lit early for the Parade for the first time in 1985. Now there is an annual tree lighting ceremony in downtown Toronto during the days leading up to the Santa Claus Parade.

1989 - The Russian Connection
1989 - The Russian Connection

Between 1989 and 1991, the Santa Claus Parade formed an alliance with Russia (the Soviet Union) just as the Soviet era was coming to a close. In 1989, two Soviet broadcasters, Herman Solomatin and Tetyana Vedenyeva provided on-the-spot coverage of the Parade, which was broadcast to 250 million viewers in the Soviet Union via the Gosteleradio Network. Based on this interest, Russia was invited to participate in the Parade in 1991.

1995 - 100 Years of Smiles
1995 - 100 Years of Smiles

Today, there are more than 25 animated floats with themes ranging from Harry Potter to Hockey Night in Canada. More than 200 Celebrity Clowns lead the Parade and raise about $200,000 annually, while around 2,000 costumed participants march happily through Toronto's streets. Toronto police asked Parade organizers to extend the route by one mile in order to spread out the crowds of spectators.

Toronto's Santa Claus Parade is the longest running children's Parade in the world, broadcast across North America, as far away as New Zealand, Norway and Ireland.

The Sweetest Sponsors

Since 1982, Companies across Canada have rallied to support and save the parade. Without their support, the parade would have ended and the many memories we have made over the past many decades would have never happened. A big thank you to the following sponsors for their generosity.

Parade map

Celebrity Clown Sponsors

Friends of the Parade

Contact Us

The Santa Claus Parade