Grosse Pointers love a parade, and organizers estimate that 10,000-12,000 local residents will line Kercheval in the Hill and Village business districts for the 37th annual Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade, which starts at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 23.
The parade, which covers a 1.1-mile route, starts in the Farms at Lewiston and Kercheval and heads west on Kercheval into the City.
Almost 100 floats and community groups are slated to take part this year, including marching bands from Anchor Bay, Ecorse Community, De La Salle, Grosse Pointe North and Harper Woods high schools, the Redford Unicycle Club, the Detroit Fire Department Clowns, the Shen Yun Christmas Float, and members of the Parade Company’s Big Head Corps, who will be wearing some of the Detroit parade’s signature oversized papier-mâché heads.
“The highlights of the parade are always the community groups that march in the parade — making this a true community celebration — and Santa Claus, of course,” Grosse Pointe Village Association President Mike Kramer said in an email interview. “It is a tradition for many families to extend their Thanksgiving celebration and gather as a family to watch the parade and their friends and neighbors in the parade.”
Village Association Marketing and Promotions Manager John Denomme concurred.
“I love the marching bands and community groups as they make their way down Kercheval,” he said via email. “It’s what parades are all about.”
Parade Director Terri Berschback is looking forward to the debut parade appearance of Ronald McDonald. A new McDonald’s restaurant recently opened on Mack in Detroit, across the street from the Pointes, and its owners have been actively supporting local programs ever since.
“Everyone knows who (Ronald McDonald) is and I think will be excited to see him,” said Berschback in an email interview.
The nonprofit Friends of the Grosse Pointe Parade, which provides support for this community event, is once again introducing a new float this year: the Grosse Pointe White Christmas Carriage. Since it was founded in 2005, the organization has created the Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Sleigh, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and last year’s Grosse Pointe Express train — also known as the Wellness Express — with its Toys for Tots Caboose. The Village Toy Company has traditionally served as a collection site for these donated toys, as well as a place where donors could purchase items for children in need.
Denomme said the carriage should “add to the festive nature of the parade. We are fortunate to have a support organization like the Friends of the Grosse Pointe Parade, whose efforts have really enhanced and expanded the parade.”
“It’s always fun to add something new to the parade,” she said. “Families have been coming to the parade for a couple of generations and enjoy seeing different groups, hearing different music. The introduction of the White Christmas Carriage from the Friends of the Grosse Pointe Parade should be a great way to usher in Santa.”
This is likely the last year for longtime director Berschback.
“As parade director for the past 10 years, it has been my pleasure to produce the parade,” she said in an email interview. “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.”
The parade is preceded by the Grosse Pointe Lions Club’s 15th annual Happy Holidays Jingle Bell 5K Walk/Run, which starts at 9 a.m. on the parade route.
Despite the number of visitors, Denomme said parking “is not a problem.” Although the lot behind the Village Ace and shuttered Borders store is under construction, he said there are still plenty of spaces for motorists.
“My advice is to arrive by 8:30 a.m. on the 23rd and you’ll have no problem finding a spot,” Denomme said by email. “As long as we have decent weather, many people just walk to the parade from the surrounding neighborhoods.”
Parade visitors can stick around and do their holiday shopping afterward. Denomme said parking in all municipal lots is free on parade day, as well as on Saturdays and Sundays during the shopping season.
“People love traditions like the Santa Claus Parade,” Denomme said. “I think Grosse Pointers’ ‘shopping clocks’ tend to be set to the rhythm of these traditions, and the parade is the most enduring of all.”
Later on parade day, the Authentic Dickens Carolers will perform at 4:30 p.m. at Kercheval and St. Clair. The Village Aglow tree-lighting ceremony follows at 5 p.m. The Dickens group will lead a community sing-along, and the Grosse Pointe Boat Club will serve free hot chocolate.
The parade is produced by the Grosse Pointe Village Association in cooperation with the Hill Association. For more about the parade, visit www.thevillagegp.com or call (313) 886-7474 or (313) 886-0021.