With the way kids were shouting out his name Sunday as he rode along Water Street in St. John’s, waving from his sleigh aboard a transport truck, you would gather children are pretty interested in Santa Claus.
There were indeed plenty vying for jolly old Saint Nicholas’ attention during the Downtown St. John’s Christmas Parade, which attracted thousands of onlookers Sunday afternoon.
Prior to the parade, there was talk of 60,000 to 70,000 people converging on the downtown area to watch it.
Though it would be near impossible to verify that number, attendance was strong, with bodies packing every sidewalk along the parade’s route, which started in the Fort William Building parking lot and headed west before finishing at the Railway Coastal Museum on Water Street.
Turnout benefited greatly from Sunday’s weather, which was cool but not bone-chilling, with a slight breeze at times and little in the way of precipitation, barring a few snowflakes that fell shortly before 1 p.m.
Those who came heard plenty of festive tunes, ranging from Christmas songs played on accordion to marching bands hammering out melodies on glockenspiel and speakers blasting.
Then there were the dancers, who were probably warmer than most at the parade given their near-constant need to move and shake.
Children seemed happy with or without the parade. Before it got underway, many could be found playing in snow leftover from Thursday’s storm, often heard squealing in delight as they played with one another.
Many kept their energy up by consuming sugar-infused treats like cotton candy and hot chocolate.
There were many costumed folks to wave at the children. Some wore outfits depicting characters directly linked to the holiday season, like Santa’s elves or Dr. Suess’ Grinch.
Other costumes alluded to the commercial side of Christmas, including characters from the Star Wars films and Super Mario Brothers video games.
The more recognizable the costumes were, the more excited the children became. Among the more popular characters to greet them was St. John’s IceCaps mascot Buddy the Puffin, who handed — or perhaps winged — out a flurry of high fives to the excited children.
Also popular were the Mazol Shriners with their miniature cars, or “funny cars” as one child was heard to exclaim numerous times.
Along with celebrations of the upcoming Christmas season were some efforts to help others. The Community Food Sharing Association accepted food donations that were laid into the back of a truck.
All in all, it was a fine primer for kids counting down the days until Santa Claus comes to visit their homes. Though they may have wanted him to break protocol Sunday and start firing off gifts from his sleigh on Sunday, hopefully they can wait.
If children were not eagerly anticipating Christmas before Sunday, they certainly are now.