The Surrey Santa Parade of Lights rolled through Cloverdale Dec. 3 and was a “resounding success,” according to Paul Orazietti.
Orazietti, the executive director of the Cloverdale BIA and the parade’s organizer-in-chief, said he was “a little burnt out” after the event none the worse for wear.
“In the grand scheme of things, I’m pretty darn thankful,” he said. “People have been super kind and everyone was really happy to see the parade.”
Orazietti said, as a perfectionist, he always wants everything to run smoothly, but the parade went off better than he could have hoped for.
“It was a resounding success,” he said. “We had one minor incident where a parade-goer fell and got hurt, but that was it.”
Thousands visited downtown Cloverdale for the 16th annual event and Orazietti said he thinks there were more spectators than last year.
“The parade was longer than before,” he added. “I kept adding entries at the last minute because this parade isn’t your typical big city parade. There’s no big-money floats. It’s community groups and businesses. It’s a community parade. From that end of it, it’s really down home and country.”
Orazietti said he was surprised at the parade’s growth from last year to this year, both in number of paraders and parade-goers.
“Each entry builds on the other,” he explained. “The parade grows. It’s slow and steady. But it comes from people who work for certain companies. They come to the parade and say, ‘Gee, my company should get involved.’ From that standpoint the parade grows and the participants get embedded.”
Orazietti said the parade went for about 2 hours. He was happy the weather cooperated too.
“The weather, to put it politely, was wild,” he noted. “Saturday looked promising. Sunday morning, I didn’t think the weather would be that great. But Sunday afternoon, the weather looked okay. So, I thought, ‘Wow! This may work out.’ And it did.”
He said the sidewalks were jammed. There were lots of families with young children.
Orazietti thinks people are drawn to the event because of its grassroots, community nature. He feels it will continue to get bigger and better and attract even more spectators and participants.
He said the Surrey Santa Parade of Lights has never just been about the parade. There’s also a charity component to the annual event. Something this year, he said, is more important than ever.
“People are realizing this is a vehicle for generosity,” he said. “And in this economy, the need is greater than ever.”
Orazietti set up donation bins in Hawthorne Square and at Wyndham Estates, a residential property on 176A Street, just north of 58A Avenue. He said parade-goers filled bins with non-perishable food items and new toys.
“We’re supporting four charities this year,” he explained. “The Christmas Hamper Program, two food banks—both the Surrey Food Bank and the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank—and the Surrey Christmas Bureau.”
He said the charity component adds “more meaning” to the event.
“It really is a community event,” he added. “The nature of the donations at the parade show how this really is people caring about people. That’s the part that touches my heart the most. It’s reflective of this community and who we are.”