Hundreds of Yellowknifers waited for nearly two hours in their cars to see the city’s “reverse Santa Claus parade” on Saturday – only to be turned away once the clock hit 7pm.
To accommodate social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic, the City of Yellowknife held its annual Santa Claus parade as a drive-through event. Stationary floats wished season’s greetings from afar as residents drove by.
However, the two hours allotted for the event proved not nearly enough time for all of Yellowknife’s excited parade attendees to see Santa Claus.
By 7pm, hundreds of cars were still on Deh Cho Boulevard, Highway 3, and Old Airport Road, waiting to reach the Engle Business District where floats were lined up.
Event coordinators, though, shut the event down as scheduled.
Cabin Radio understands organizers surveyed participants on floats and concluded many were simply too cold to continue, having spent hours setting up and performing for residents in temperatures below -20C.
Many families who had crawled forward in traffic for an hour or more were duly turned away.
Resident Jason Melanson told Cabin Radio he, his partner Kristal, and their two sons had been waiting since 5:30pm. They reached the front of the line at almost exactly 7pm and were among the first turned away as the parade closed.
“It has been the 2020 of Christmas parades, let’s say that,” Melanson said with a laugh.
Melanson said he thought the idea of a drive-through parade was “brilliant” and could be retained in the future so attendees can stay warm, despite Saturday’s outcome for his family.
The Melansons were tuned to Cabin Radio’s live broadcast of the parade – the internet station had access to the 91.1 FM frequency for the evening – as they inched closer to the parade entrance.
“We were listening to Cabin Radio talking about being in touch with City Hall and the unknown of what was going to happen exactly at seven. We started getting anxious,” he said.
“Sure enough, we were the first people cut off from entering the Santa Claus parade.
“It’ll be the same feeling as all those people that were in the back behind us. We had friends still close to the airport.”
The frustration wasn’t exclusive to the Melanson family. On Facebook, many others expressed disappointment.
“Wow. Waited in the car for over an hour for nothing. This has been a quintessential parade for 2020,” one resident posted.
Cold, bitter evening
Even so, many attendees understood the impact of cold conditions on float participants.
Haylee Turi of Piercings by Haylee J, who had a float in the parade, reminded residents this was the first time the city had ever done something like this.
“It’s definitely a bummer that not every single vehicle got to go through, but I think folks need to be a tad more understanding,” she wrote online.
“It’s cold out. The wind is bitter. And folks have been out in it since 3 o’clock getting set up.”
Kristal Melanson said she understood the dilemma faced by participants.
“It’s two hours in the cold, it’s freezing – I get that,” she said.
“But even if they had just left the floats and let people drive by them… it’s tough to be the first one, to be that close, and be like, ‘Oh my god, we’re not going to get in.’”
“If this year has taught anybody anything, you just have to roll with the punches,” Jason said.
“Just keep going and make the best of every situation that you can – and wash your hands.”