Do you have fond memories of being bundled up in your winter coat, hat, mitts and boots, then hustled downtown where you searched for the perfect viewing spot to stand for ages in the freezing cold while being jostled about by a crowd of strangers? All in anticipation of catching a fleeting glimpse of Santa and his eight tiny reindeer, plus Rudolf with his nose so bright?
Jennifer Williamson certainly has fond memories of the parade. She is a busy Leasider who, in addition to running her recruiting business, Peak Associates, is one of the many volunteers behind the magic of Toronto’s Santa Parade.
“As a youngster my mom and grandpa had us down at ‘our spot’ by 6 a.m. on the curb close to Simpsons (now The Bay) for easy window display viewing after the parade,” she said. “Keeping the annual tradition, I would take my niece and nephew when they were young and we always bought red noses, like Rudolf’s, sold by off-duty TTC officers.
With all the good feelings Jennifer had experienced attending the parade, when her own daughter Lindsay was young she decided it was time to volunteer and contribute to the magic. So, at her first meeting, Jennifer asked, “can I be involved in selling the red noses?” To her surprise she learned the noses weren’t being sold anymore. Her immediate response was, “We must!” And, of course, she ended up with the job of Chief of Noses. That’s when her wild ride began.
“Right away one of the committee members offered to order the noses. This was a relief to me. We projected 10,000 would do. So, a few weeks later a courier arrived at my office saying he had a delivery. I showed him to an interview room where we had set aside space for the boxes. As he brought in box after box, filling the room completely, I double checked the invoice. We received 100,000 noses, enough for 10 years of parades because the volunteer saved a penny a nose! Turns out they weren’t such a bargain as they cracked in the cold and we ended giving out two to every purchaser.”
Jennifer continued, “My next challenge was begging the Toronto Star to loan us newspaper carrier bags so the sellers could dispense the noses from their bag stuffed with noses. It took serious negotiations yet finally they relented when I promised that the bags would all be returned and in pristine condition. Finally, the day of the parade arrived. All went smoothly and my team sold a ton of noses.”
The Cadets took over selling the noses the next year and they seem thrilled to carry on the tradition. In the words of one Leaside student, Josh Asano of Air Cadet’s 180 Mosquito Squadron, “It was cold, but tons of fun on the day of the Santa Parade last year. I collected $687 for the cause and we’ll be out in force again this year. Buy your red nose. Please don’t hold back!”
This year’s Santa Parade is on November 18. Red noses are welcome.