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Truly Santa

Niagara Falls hosted the “biggest Santa Claus parade we’ve ever had” Saturday, says Mayor Jim Diodati.

“We’re going to have to do some numbers, but this is the biggest Santa Claus parade we’ve ever had. This is easily the best Santa Claus parade we’ve ever been a part of,” he said, crediting the Downtown Niagara Falls Business Improvement Area, which organized the event.

“They’ve decorated like never done. They brought the Festival of Lights into Queen Street now. They got the Christmas Market. It’s one of the few parades going forward this year. Everybody is so done with COVID, and they’re so grateful to get back to traditions, and celebrate the holiday season.”

The parade began at 4 p.m. at Victoria Avenue and Armoury Street. It travelled to Valley Way and Queen Street and ended at city hall with a tree-lighting ceremony at 5:45 p.m., which is when the outdoor Niagara Falls Christmas Market officially began.

The free market will run until Dec. 19, on Fridays 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In addition to vendors, the market will include interactive light displays, live music and visits from Santa on Saturdays.

The parade featured floats, mascots, live entertainment, Mrs. Claus and Santa Claus.

Santa was especially excited to be part of the parade, repeatedly telling people in the crowd how much he loves them, and how the event signals a return to normalcy from the pandemic.

This year’s parade was a return to the traditional event. Due to the pandemic, the 2020 event featured a reverse “drive-thru” parade with parade marshals directing drivers along the route.

But on Saturday, parking was hard to find anywhere near the event, while spots to get a good view of the parade were few and far between along the parade route.

Maria Almeida attended the parade with her family on her 59th birthday.

“I live in Mississauga, and they decided to take me to Niagara Falls to see the parade and spend the weekend down here. It’s fantastic,” she said, adding the family was planning to check out the Winter Festival of Lights, which began Saturday night, and “hopefully buy some stuff for Christmas.”

Valerie Astudillo attended the parade with her five-year-old son, Theo.

Although they are from Niagara Falls, this was the first time they attended the parade.

“I asked my son, ‘Do you want to go to the Santa Claus parade this year?’ We were talking about how Christmas is coming, and he said (excitedly), ‘Yes, mom, I want to come out to the parade, I want to get out this year.’”

Welland resident Diane Turbide brought her three-year-old granddaughter, Jessica, and dog, Nugget, to the parade.

She said she was surprised to see such a large turnout, adding it was “nice to see.”

“I came really early (to find parking nearby),” said Turbide.

“There’s a lot of time put into (organizing such an event) and it’s nice to support them and encourage people.”