In 1969 the Windsor Jaycees determined that our city had a need for a parade which would welcome in the Christmas season. There had been other Santa Claus Parades up to 1963, but for various reasons they were discontinued. On November 28th 1969 the first Windsor Jaycees Santa Claus Parade was held with 29 entries and 8 bands. The route stretched from Mitchell Park to City Hall Square, running over 2 hours from start to finish. Key entries included Bozo the Clown, Mr. Whoodini and the Windsor Fire Department. It was an international affair witnessed by over 30000 spectators, with high school bands from Michigan and Ohio and many politicians led by then Mayor William Riggs.
In 1970 a standing parade steering committee was created. This year they had enticed 32 entries to participate, with one of the most unusual entries ever being a large Dragon draped over 22 Frank Begley Public School students. 1970 also saw the creation of the annual visit of Santa Claus to children in hospitals after the parade. By 1971 the parade had grown to 50 entries and was tied into St. Clair College’s Homecoming, with the college playing a pivotal roll in events and float building. In 1972 the route was changed to begin at Riverside Drive and Crawford Avenue, ending at Mitchell Park. The following year was the first for Mrs. Claus to join her husband in the parade. By the late 70’s the parade incorporated a Jaycee Fun Run just prior to the big event as well as carolers and tree decorating the evening before parade day.
During the 80’s the parade experienced dramatic growth in entries (up to 100) and many more events incorporated to help local charities such as coat, can and toy donations. Additionally the Jaycees began working in conjunction with the Downtown Business Association to really make the weekend the Festive Season kick-off. 1996 saw the parade move to a night-time format with each entry incorporating thousands of twinkling bulbs. This created a dazzling spectacle of colour, light and snow, and culminated with a fireworks display over the Detroit River.
In 1998 the Santa Claus Parade was incorporated. A full-time Parade Director was hired the following year, allowing staff to complete many of the time-consuming tasks volunteers could not tackle. In response to public and media demands, the 1999 parade was trimmed to 55 high-quality and entertaining entries allowing the parade to have a 1-hour viewing time.
2001 ushered in the millennium with sponsored floats professionally.
In 2003 the Windsor Parade Committee adopted the additional role of Summer Fest which constituted our name change from the Windsor Jaycees Santa Claus Parade to the Windsor Parade Corporation.
As of 2004, 45 foot inflatable characters where introduced to the Santa Claus parade. These inflatables are similar to the ones you may see in the New York Macy’s parade. They were a success and proved to be a crowd favorite.