The Surrey Santa Parade of Lights returned to the delight of thousands Dec. 4.
Many descended upon downtown Cloverdale for the usually annual event as it returned for the first time since 2019. (The parade was cancelled for two years in a row because of COVID.)
“It was a fabulous success—nothing short of spectacular,” said Paul Orazietti. “I couldn’t have been happier. Everyone was thanking me. People were coming up to me telling me the parade gave them goosebumps.”
Orazietti, the executive director of the Cloverdale BIA and the parade’s organizer-in-chief, thinks the Santa parade exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“It was a comeback year, even though the parade was shorter,” he said. “We had a limited budget, and we lacked a title sponsor, but the city came to the table late in the game and did an outstanding job.”
That outstanding job included going above and beyond normal prep and maintenance. Orazietti said the City of Surrey salted and plowed the roads, cleared sidewalks, cleared Hawthorne Square, and just generally raised the safety level for the large event.
“They really focused in on safety—well above the standards that Vancouver uses,” Orazietti said. “So, we probably have the highest standards in Western Canada.”
Orazietti said the parade went for about 1.5 hours and he said thousands took in the parade, though he added it would be hard to guess the exact number.
“It was packed,” he noted. “There were no soft spots. The sidewalks were full all around and there was a lot families with young children.”
He said even with the two-year hiatus, it’s an event that keeps growing. This time around, the parade had 56 entries. There were parade newbies and veterans alike. He said they have a large group of parade regulars that enter every year.
“You get people that just up their game all the time,” added Orazietti. “The Lower Mainland Crawlers, for example, were outstanding. They have these RC vehicles they decorate.”
Orazietti said there were so many Crawlers, they basically had their own parade within a parade.
He said organizers collected money and gift certificates and took in non-perishable food items and unwrapped toys from parade attendees—all of which will given to the Cloverdale Community Kitchen to use for their Christmas Hamper Program.
Orazietti said the Salvation Army was also on hand and gave out 2,000 free hotdogs.
He said his event highlight was seeing the RCMP towing the Grinch inside a metal cage.
“(The Grinch) played the role perfectly,” said Orazietti. “The crowd booed him. He was rattling the cage with his hands. And I thought, ‘This is imaginative.’ He really got people’s emotions going. I thought that was a sweet move.”
He said he’ll relax for the next few weeks, but once January rolls around, he’ll start planning next year’s parade.
“We really want to start working a lot earlier on it,” he said. “We need to work on finding more key sponsors earlier and we need to work on figuring out a better route.”
Orazietti said people are drawn to the event and it will continue to get bigger in both the amount of paraders and parade-watchers. He’ll reflect on what went right and what went wrong and incorporate any new ideas to solve problems into next year’s event.
For now, he’s going to sit back and enjoy what he sees as a celebration that turned the page on the past two years.
“Overall, it was just a back to normal moment. And I’m very happy about that.”