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Parade of Lights returns Saturday in New Westminster

Santa and Mrs. Claus work on their waving technique prior to the start of the Christmas Parade of Lights in New Westminster. The parade returns on Saturday. - NewsLeader file
Santa and Mrs. Claus work on their waving technique prior to the start of the Christmas Parade of Lights in New Westminster. The parade returns on Saturday.
— image credit: NewsLeader file

The annual Christmas Parade of Lights on Saturday will be a bigger party with a much bigger tree this year.

This year, the parade down Columbia Street, which starts at Fourth Street at 4 p.m. will be followed by a lighting ceremony of a 38-foot high Christmas tree that is 22 feet in diameter at Hyack Square. The tree is courtesy of the City of New Westminster, said Hyack Festival Association executive director Douglas Smith.

"It's fantastic the city has stepped up and acquired a tree that has that wow factor that we were working for," said Smith.

Because of its size, the tree will take up the entire stage platform in Hyack square, so organizers will bring in a big hydraulic stage to sit in front of the square at the foot of Eighth Street to accommodate the ceremony as well as the entertainment to follow.

The honourary parade marshal this year will be New West native Jon Cornish, the Calgary Stampeders running back who was last week named the Canadian Football League's Most Outstanding Canadian and was runner-up for Most Outstanding Player.

"Hopefully by Saturday he'll be over the disappointment of losing in the Grey Cup. That should be great to have him there. Our timing in selecting Jon couldn't have been better," said Smith.

Besides Cornish, Smith noted the parade will have some new additions including a float from the Indo-Canadian community, a Filipino community lantern float, and the Vancouver Christmas Market Band with gingerbread mascots Holly and Jolly.

"We've tried to work on the parade to make it a little bit more dramatic and exciting. It's going to hopefully be more exciting for the children," said Smith. "It's not nearly as long a parade as the Hyack International Parade, it will only last about an hour and it's a shorter route. We wanted to try and get as many good entries as possible, to make it as colourful and compelling as possible."

Canada Post will have employees along the route collecting letters to Santa that can be addressed to Santa Claus, North Pole H0H 0H0.

Afterward, the Downtown New Westminster Improvement Association is sponsoring a full lineup of entertainment that will continue until 8 p.m. It's being headlined by AJ Woodworth, an emerging country singer from West Vancouver who has put out a Christmas album, and the We Three Queens jazz diva trio from Vancouver, which consists of jazz luminaries Kate Hammett-Vaughan, Karin Plato and Jennifer Scott.

"They're all fantastic jazz singers on their own but they come together to do a Christmas show, and we're excited to have them because they do a good show and they're really talented," said Smith. "We think we've got a really good lineup of entertainment so we're hoping everybody sticks around."

Smith said the long-range plan is to have more of a winterfest type of event throughout the Christmas season with activities on weekend evenings, something Hyack and the BIA are talking to the city about developing.

"The goal is to create more of an economic impact for the Downtown businesses for more than just the one-day event," Smith said.

Title sponsor CIBC is also providing a photo booth for children to get their pictures taken with Santa Claus in exchange for a non-perishable food item or a cash donation to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

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