The focus is on bringing the community together for free fun and organizers are inviting everyone to come out to celebrate the holidays together at the Maple Ridge Christmas Festival and Santa Parade on Saturday, Dec. 1.
The parade of lights draws people of all ages out to watch Santa's arrival amid bright, shining cars, floats, and other entries. The new parade route will start at the corner of Dewdney Trunk Road and Plaza Street, run east along Dewdney to 224th Street, south on 224th to Lougheed Highway, then along Lougheed west to 223rd Street.
"Last year we had close to 70 [entries] so I'd say we'll have between 60 to 70 this year," said festival chair Dianne Enns.
Starting at 4 p.m. in Memorial Peace Park, there will be plenty of festive activity to keep everyone busy through to the end of the evening at 8 p.m. The parade starts promptly at 6 p.m. and is the most popular part of the event.
"We had between 10,000 and 12,000 spectators last year, with over 2,000 coming though the park afterwards," Enns said.
Organizers feel it's the time of year for giving, so they focus on the free family fun aspects of the event. You won't find any sales or merchandising in the park or on the parade route.
Hot chocolate and popcorn will be free in the park along with s'mores and candy canes while they last.
The one condition is that people bring their own mugs for the beverages to prevent waste and litter in the park.
"The kids loved the s'mores last year, they are pre-done and they were gone quick," Enns said.
The Kiwanis Club of Golden Ears will be offering hotdogs and fries by donation and the Salvation Army will also have refreshments by donation at their booth.
"The Kiwanis is just a tremendous help," noted Enns. "They provide all the food for the volunteers."
The food bank will be in the park as well as on the parade route to collect non-perishable food items, while the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society will be collecting new unwrapped toys.
While in the park, Christmas music will come from the bandstand from "a mixed lineup of concert bands and choral groups," Enns said.
A lineup of entertainment on the bandstand, starting with the St. Patrick's School choir singing the national anthem, plus performances by the Young People's Opera Society of B.C., Lydia Querengesser, Green Singers, and Maple Ridge Concert Band.
The evening will close out with a 7: 30 p.m. performance by the Johnson Brothers, nephews of country singer Rick Tippe.
Kids will also love the children's activity tent put on by Burnett Fellowship Church where they can make a free ornament to take home.
"They [Burnett Fellowship] are one of our biggest sponsors," Enns said.
"Without them we'd have a hard time putting this [parade and festival] on."
Don't forget Santa. He and Mrs. Claus will be available for pictures, and according to Enns - thanks to sponsors - those who spend some time with the Claus clan will receive a free postcard-sized photo.
The parade has been running on and off for several decades, including the past nine.
Enns noted that monetary donations are always welcome as the event is primarily supported through fundraising activities and is put on by a non-profit organization.
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