The Ontario Government announced a $9 million funding stream to help special events, festivals, and holiday parades go ahead while still maintaining health guidelines.
Despite this, the Barrie Santa Claus parade will still have to wait until next year. Luckily, the Barrie Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the parade each year, still has something up its sleeve.
“It’s basically like a Santa tour,” Paul Markle, the Chamber’s Interim Executive Director, told Barrie 360. “the concept would be that we move Santa around to different places, with a predetermined sort of drop off point. So people will be able to drop off letters, and it’ll be sort of tied into the toy drive that Rock 95 and 107.5 Kool FM do every year.”
“You go to drop stuff off, and then Santa will come in behind and pick the letters up, we’ll do some filming. So the kids will be able to see that their letters were picked up,” continued Markle. “
He points out negotiations with Santa and his crew are ongoing. “The shifting gears and planning this takes a little bit of runway to get it up and going. But we’ve communicated with all the partners and everyone’s excited to get it up and going. It’ll be a few weeks, we still got some time to get that going.” He said the program would run from just after Remembrance Day right up to Christmas eve.
This comes in place of the parade the Chamber announced it would have to cancel recently. Markle said it was a question of health. “We made the decision based on a number of things, and the primary one is safety; in order to put the prade on, it requires a lot of volunteers,” said Markle. “And that means that you have people working closely together to put those things together. We just felt that that it wasn’t a good position to put our community under at the at the moment.”
While the decision to cancel this year’s parade was a matter of health and safety, Markle points out the parade wouldn’t have met the requirements for this funding stream regardless. “It’s more designed for larger parades, with the minimum being a $50,000 operating budget.”
Details of the new funding stream, called the Reconnect Festivals and Events Program, is designed to support municipalities and event organizers during the COVID-19 pandemic; the funding is expected to be used to maintain public safety measures while allowing people to reconnect in their communities, according to a statement from the province Thursday. “COVID-19 has had an unprecedented and devastating impact on our local festivals and events,” said Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture Lisa MacLeod. “This important investment through the new Reconnect Festival and Event Program will continue to support Ontarians as they reconnect and experience all their local communities have to offer.”