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December 12, 2012

Chamber of Commerce takes Santa Claus Parade reins

Grosse Pointe business group will run 2013 event

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

GROSSE POINTES — The 37th annual Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade marked both a beginning and an end.

Immediately after the parade wrapped up its festivities the day after Thanksgiving, leaders from the Grosse Pointe Village Association announced that the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce would be taking over the reins for the 38th annual parade, an event that draws thousands to the community each year.

The parade, which had been run by the Village Association in cooperation with the Hill Association, was one of the first events ever organized by the business group, said Village Association President Mike Kramer. He believes the changing of the guard will be beneficial for the beloved community tradition, because he said the chamber is “better suited” to run the parade.

“Because it’s a community-wide event more than a Village event, we’re delighted that the chamber is taking over,” Kramer said. “I think that’s really a good situation.”

But in keeping with the motto, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” don’t expect to see big changes — at least not next year — said GPCC President Jennifer Palms Boettcher. She said the parade would remain largely the same, albeit possibly with some additions.

“We want to enhance it and make it the best it can be,” Boettcher said.

The chamber will be assembling a steering committee, made up of representatives from all five Pointes, to oversee the event. Boettcher said she anticipated that the committee would include representatives from not only the cities, but also their nonprofit city foundations and business associations.

Although the parade route only takes it through two business areas — the Hill in Grosse Pointe Farms and the Village in Grosse Pointe City — Boettcher noted that people from all of the Pointes, as well as neighboring communities, take part in the event.

“The parade is for the whole community, and we’d like to get more of the community involved,” Boettcher said. “We want the business community to take more of a stake in the parade.”

As to the possibility of expanding the parade route in the future, possibly into Grosse Pointe Park’s Kercheval business district, The Park, Boettcher said the route isn’t changing next year, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen at some point.

“We’re thinking about all different options,” she said.

Longtime Village Association Board member Beverly Leinweber, who was one of the people who established the parade with then-bookstore owner Gwenn Samuel in 1975, is among those who believe the chamber will be able to improve on this community tradition.

“Parades generally around the country are run by chambers (of commerce),” she said, “but there was no (Grosse Pointe) chamber (in 1975). That’s why we started (the parade).”

The GPCC is relatively new — it was launched in October 2005 — but has been growing steadily since its inception. At press time, Boettcher said the GPCC had more than 520 business members.

“I think the chamber will have perhaps more volunteers, a better handle on sponsorship,” Leinweber said. “(Jennifer Palms Boettcher has) got a huge membership. They’ll have some good assets to pull from.”

So that parade supporters can make tax-deductible donations to the event, it will fall under the chamber’s nonprofit arm, the Grosse Pointe Chamber Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) organization.

Boettcher said the change in parade oversight has no impact on the nonprofit Friends of the Grosse Pointe Parade, an independent group that in recent years has raised money for new floats, such as this year’s White Christmas Carriage.

The chamber is planning on hiring a parade director to secure sponsors and handle other responsibilities, Boettcher said. The 2012 parade marked the last one for veteran Parade Director Terri Berschback, who Leinweber said “did a phenomenal job with that parade.”

“As parade director for the past 10 years, it has been my pleasure to produce the parade,” Berschback said in an email interview last month. “I have enjoyed meeting and communicating with so many people in Grosse Pointe. The high point of each parade is seeing all the smiling faces along Kercheval. To all the volunteers over the years, I can’t thank you enough. To all our sponsors who help pay for the production of the parade, if it wasn’t for your generosity and commitment to the community, there wouldn’t be a parade.”

Village officials hope the many connections established by the business group will help with the parade.

“Our hope is to keep it successful and help it grow,” Boettcher said. “This is a community parade. We want to get the community involved.”

Anyone interested in volunteering with the parade can call the GPCC at (313) 881-4722 or visit www.grossepointechamber.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.