11th-hour parade preparations pay off

Santa takes his new sleigh down Thames St, Oamaru. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
Santa takes his new sleigh down Thames St, Oamaru. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
The 11th-hour efforts of organisers and volunteer helpers to prepare Christmas floats for the Oamaru Santa Parade on Saturday were rewarded with a huge boost in crowd numbers.

Organiser Anton Roswell said he "conservatively" estimated that 7000 people lined Thames St to watch the parade of more than 70 floats, including a revamped Santa sleigh.

Slideshow: Santa Claus comes to town 

Last year, Santa appeared on a jet ski after his float failed a warrant of fitness, and Mr Roswell said volunteers had worked late into Friday night to ensure the new Santa sleigh, which included a snow-making machine, was ready in time.

"Fulton Hogan provided all the stuff for the float and we spent right up until Friday night decorating it.

"It was quite different to probably the last 10 years, but this time it was on a 25-metre trailer so it was huge."

He said he was thrilled with the crowd numbers and the effort that everyone had put into decorating floats.

"It was brilliant. We expected about 6000, and there was way more than that.

"A lot of people were putting something different into the Christmas theme."

A cold, rainy day did not stop hundreds from lining Balclutha's main street as the town gathered for its first Christmas parade on Saturday.

Part of the "Christmas Celebration" organised by the South Otago Festival Trust, the parade was joined by the Clutha Country Christmas Market, and the Can Cruise by the Big River Bikers.

South Otago Festival Trust event co-ordinator Jean Proctor said the parade was a new event for the trust, replacing the annual Christmas concert.

"Everyone really came on board with the celebration.

"They came out despite the weather and there will be a parade again next year."

Several Clutha residents told the Otago Daily Times this was the first Christmas parade for the town, and they hoped it would become a regular feature.

Mrs Proctor said the trust was "thrilled" with the response and hoped the parade would continue to grow - with better weather next year.

The parade began at Shand House at 1pm and travelled down Clyde St.

Mrs Proctor said 18 groups took part in the parade, which closed State Highway 1 for about an hour.

The parade was followed by entertainment on a closed-off portion of Elizabeth St, and included performances from Vickie Evans, Paige Gardner and local band HC.