Eaton’s Department Store held its first Santa Claus Parade in 1905 in Toronto. The Parade was so successful that in 1909 Eaton’s started parades in Montreal and Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade has been held successful every year since and celebrates its 108th anniversary this year.
Due to rising costs Eaton’s organized its last parade in 1965. Captain George Smith of the East Kildonan Fire Department, on behalf of the Winnipeg Firefighters Club, bought the parade from Eaton’s for $1.50 and started the community based format that has continued to this day.
From 1966 to 1975 the Winnipeg Firefighters worked very closely with volunteers from schools around Winnipeg to successfully carry on the parade tradition.
In 1975 the Winnipeg Jaycees, now JCI Winnipeg, were asked to continue the community tradition and the organization took over the stewardship of the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade exclusively until 2004.
In 1987 the JCI Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade began its relationship with the Christmas Cheer Board collecting donations and non-perishable food items along the parade route.
In November 1998, the City of Winnipeg hosted the Grey Cup. Manitoba Hydro worked with event organizers to bring a Grey Cup parade to downtown Winnipeg. Because of its success, Manitoba Hydro continued to sponsor an annual night-time parade in downtown Winnipeg. This event continued from 1999 to 2005 and was called the Power Smart Festival of Lights Parade.
When the Grey Cup returned in 2006, JCI Winnipeg, the City of Winnipeg and Manitoba Hydro joined forces, rolling their individual events into one large and very successful Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade.
The next year, in 2007, JCI Winnipeg and Manitoba Hydro agreed to a joint-title sponsorship to hold the Power Smart / JCI Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade, a night-time, lit parade.
In 2012 another milestone was marked as a community based not-for-profit, the Winnipeg Parade Committee, was created to guide and produce the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade which initiated a year-round presence in the community.
The tradition continues every year with the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade.