The Santa parades were originally a town event that was passed on to the Chamber of Commerce some 20 years ago. To date, there have been two tree lightings, two Shoppers’ nights and two Santa parades.
Executive Director of the Saugeen Shores Chamber of Council, Kimberley Inniss-Peterson, presented a report to Town Council on Monday (Sept. 23) saying that the Chamber Board of Directors has made a decision to have only one Santa Claus parade citing several reasons.
Among the reasons cited were the costs involved, risk and liability, demands of staff and lack of volunteers.
According to Inniss-Peterson, the Chamber, as a not-for-profit business association, has a mandate “… to nurture and advocate for the business community as well as partner in economic development including tourism promotion.”
Inniss-Peterson said that, when it comes to hosting the two parades, staff requirement demands lead to “burnout, lost time with family, work-life balance.”
When it comes to costs, it was laid out that the parades have continued to run at a deficit:
- 2016 Revenue: $1,600.00 2016 Expenses: $2,350.00 (‐$750)
- 2017 Revenue: $1,670.00 2017 Expenses: $3,014.00 (‐$1344)
- 2018 Revenue: $2,300.00 2018 Expenses: $1,600.00 (‐$700)
The report also said that the Port Elgin route is too long a distance for volunteers walking while Southampton crowds are too close to floats in the downtown core.
The reasons cited for one parade versus two were – a reduced drain on Chamber straff resources, lack of volunteers and the possibility of creating a “giant parade that would become a tourism attraction”.
In addition, Inniss-Peterson said it was an opportunity to “enhance a unified community and culture” and “to create a tourism event”.
According to the Chamber of Commerce, the one parade will alternate between the two communities of Port Elgin and Southampton, alternately by year.
Councilor Myette, who is a Council representative at the Chamber of Commerce along with Councilor Cheryl Grace, said that there is some merit in the idea of one parade. “The idea deserves serious contemplation.”
When Councilor John Rich asked if the idea was supported by Chamber members and BIAs, Innis-Peterson said that the matter had been discussed at the Board level only. “Board members represent the general membership and the majority of the Board is in favour of one parade. Most of the support has come in through facebook.”
Councilor Jami Smith pointed out that the major employer in the area, Bruce Power, has most workers who, in fact, work shift hours. “For some, they may not be able to take their kids to one parade but may be able to take them to the other. It’s something that should be considered.”
Councilor Cheryl Grace supported the Chamber volunteers and also those in the community saying that they are “… stretched thin. I like the idea of looking at this as an opportunity to make one strong parade that could become a tourist attraction.”
Councilor Kristan Shrider however pointed out that “… having participated in the two parades, there is a distinct feeling and difference between the two, and this is a big decision.”
Deputy Mayor Don Matheson also pointed out that, because there is no public transit between the two communities, there would be people who could not attend a single parade. “I think we are jumping the gun for this year. I would prefer to see the parades carry on this year and then the idea come to Council in the Spring for 2020. The decision should also include input from the Chamber membership and the BIAs.
“Without a significant influx of volunteer partners, such as the Rotary Clubs, Lions and others, it’s not really feasible to carry it on,” said Councilor Myette. “This will be the Chamber decision through its Board and membership.”
Mayor Luke Charbonneau said however, that Council cannot tell the Chamber what to do. “Both parades are popular and well attended and are good for the community. I understand the Chamber is asking for our input but their decision is theirs.”
The Chamber also added however, that a second parade could be hosted by the Town of Saugeen Shores or a community group and that the Chamber would be willing to lend support and guidance.