Santa greets children before heading back to the North Pole
Supplied and Sourced Content
Auckland, November 29, 2020
Despite the rain, spirits were not dampened today (Sunday, November 29, 2020) as Aucklanders came out to celebrate their most wonderful time of the year at the Farmers Santa Parade.
Led by Hilary Barry dressed in a super-cute festive costume, the large-scale event was one of the only Christmas Parades worldwide that was able to go ahead.
The participants, volunteers and members of the public in attendance valued this wonderful Christmas gift that truly lifted spirits.
Special Guest Peppa
Alongside the familiar Parade favourites was this year’s special celebrity guest Peppa Pig.
A Rockstar in the world of children’s entertainment, this 32ft inflatable towered above the cheering crowds. This was the first time that Kiwis have seen the giant Peppa since she is usually booked out solid touring America.
Other highlights included Fijian and Tahitian dancers, Disney Inflatables, North Pole Express Float and the ever-popular traditional marching bands.
Children went wild when the star of the show – Santa closed the Parade in his upgraded float painted with the islands of Aotearoa.
The fun continued into the afternoon with Santa’s Party in Aotea Square.
TV personality Mike Puru hosted the action that drew a lively crowd eager to experience some outstanding performances and to catch a final glimpse of Santa before he left for the North Pole.
Now in its 87th year, the Farmers Santa Parade continues to be a treasured event in Auckland’s Christmas calendar and is the largest of its kind in New Zealand.
It is brought to life for one magical day by 4000 passionate volunteers.
These unpaid heroes include performers, make-up artists, choreographers, sound engineers, safety officers, drivers, designers and of course the mums and dads!
Children at Starship Hospital, who were unable to attend, also got a delivery of Christmas cheer as Santa made a special appearance at 930am on Parade day.
With Covid restrictions in place, last year’s mini celebration in the Atrium was traded for a one-on- one Santa visit at the wards, handing out some early pressies from Farmers.
“This year, more than ever the Santa Parade provided a joyous celebration that focused on bringing families and communities together for Christmas,” Michael Barnett, Chair of the Farmers Santa Parade Trust said.
History of Santa Parade
Santa or Christmas Parades take place throughout New Zealand in November or December each year. They began in the main centres in the early 1900s.
They were established by department stores to promote the arrival of in-store Santa, with the clear aim of drawing customers directly into their stores.
George and Kersley Limited Wellington store ‘the Economic’ appears to have been the first to ‘parade’ their Santa. In 1905, they invited local boys and girls to come and see ‘Mother and Father Christmas’ arrive at the railway station. The following year, the pair stopped off in the Hutt Valley and Petone en route to the store in Lambton Quay, whilst another character, Punch, visited local suburbs and the hospital.
Progress and innovation
Over the next two decades, Santa became a Christmas fixture at department stores – and stores sought more and more elaborate ways to promote their Santa’s arrival.
The journeys by car and railway that had characterised early parades were dropped in favour of more exciting means of travel. During the 1930s, Christchurch store Armstrong’s had Santa arrive on an elephant, while Farmers in Auckland and DIC in Christchurch had their Santa arrive by plane (though he then had to travel by car to their stores).
Farmers Santa Parade
Farmers first ‘Grand Parade’ was held in Auckland in 1934. Santa was accompanied by the ‘Waggles and Goggles,’ ‘The Fat Boy,’ ‘The Man that Walks on his Hands,’ ‘Harold Lloyd,’ ‘The Giant and The Big Fiddle,’ In 1935, competitor George’s Court paraded Santa with ‘the Boop Family of Giants’.
The Second World War brought a halt to the parades.
In 1937 Farmers outdid all previous efforts by having their Santa parachute into the Auckland Domain. Santa’s entourage also grew during this period. Fairies and giants were popular choices.
The next few decades were a period of relative stability for Santa parades. Particular department stores came to dominate those held in the main centres; Farmers in Auckland, James Smith’s in Wellington and Hay’s in Christchurch.
The War and After
But by 1948 Farmers had reinstituted their Auckland parade, and Hay’s in Christchurch held their inaugural parade with a series of floats depicting ‘nursery rhymes and seasonal themes’.
Many of the elaborate floats created for these events still grace Santa parades today. And many of the traditions established during this period, such as Santa being preceded by a number of other acts, are hallmarks of the modern Santa parade.
Today the Farmers Santa Parade attracts over 250,000 people, 4000 participants and 280 creations of Christmas magic over a 2.2km route.
The Parade may have got bigger and brighter but the philosophies still remain the same as those introduced by Farmers founder, Robert Laidlaw in 1934.
This is a gift of fantasy and fanfare for the children of the city.
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