The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce is making every effort to salvage Christmas from the jaws of COVID-19, and coming up with innovative ways to spread cheer in a year that sorely needs it.
“The chamber, along with the Lansdowne Fair board, are paying for Santa to travel on horse and buggy throughout the village of Lansdowne on November 15,” said Amy Kirkland, the chamber’s executive director.
The travelling Santa event will replace the annual parade and will start at 2 p.m. at the Lansdowne fairgrounds.
Unlike previous years, Santa will not be able to hand out goodies or listen to children’s secret wishes up close. Instead, Santa will tour the village greeting residents at a distance but with all the warm cheer expected of the man in red.
“We don’t really know who the big man is going to bring with him yet. It might be Mrs. Claus, or a couple of elves, but there won’t be any pictures this year, and there won’t be any stopping, it’s just a flow-through for the kids and the kids at heart,” said Dean Garrett, president of the Lansdowne Agricultural Society.
Residents are being asked to remain in their bubble and on their properties while Santa is touring the village.
“We encourage residents to stay on their porches and not congregate on the streets,” said Leeds and the Thousand Islands Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke.
The entire Leeds and the Thousand Islands council has been invited possibly to walk with Santa as he makes his way through Lansdowne, but in any event it’s very likely that Coun. Brain Mabee as Town Crier and Parade Marshal will be leading the tour.
That isn’t to say there won’t be any parades, because in Gananoque the annual Dec. 5, parade is going ahead but with a little twist. This year, residents and visitors will be able to drive past a stand-still parade between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.
“All the floats will be parked westbound on King Street East and cars will be able to travel eastbound past the floats,” said Kirkland.
The parade will start as usual at Gananoque Secondary School on William Street, and will head down Elizabeth Drive to King Street.
“The parade is usually about a kilometre in length, so the north side of King will designated parking for the parade,” said Mabee, adding that he and his “co-parade-marshals” Luke Brennan and Dustin Thorley will be coordinating the parking of floats.
In the event there are a lot of cars driving by, Mabee says there is a possibility of extending the parade past 6:30 so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy the spectacle.
The event is a chamber initiative sponsored by Hydro One, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, Downtown Gananoque and the Gananoque Police Department according to Kirkland.
There are a number of protocols that floats will be required to follow including wearing masks, social distancing and generally following all the health unit’s protocols, to prevent the spread of COVID. Kirkland’s goal is to have 100 floats again this year and she has already secured a commitment from Gan Chev to provide four vehicles for musicians to entertain spectators.
“Depending on how many musicians the chamber can secure, we’ll be providing three to four trucks with drivers, to carry a musician in the bed, so they can play Christmas carols during the parade,” said Dale Sheppard, marketing coordinator at Gan Chev.
Both the Lansdowne Santa drive-by and Gananoque parade events have been vetted by the health unit and deemed low risk, said Kirkland.
Businesses interested in fielding a float can still book spaces through the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce at $25 per space.