Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade adopts drive-thru format during pandemic

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 10, 2020

 After being warmly received by residents and local leaders, Santa and Mrs. Claus receive the key to all of the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods during the 44th annual Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade in 2019.

After being warmly received by residents and local leaders, Santa and Mrs. Claus receive the key to all of the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods during the 44th annual Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade in 2019.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

GROSSE POINTE CITY/FARMS — It won’t be like the parades of the past because of COVID-19, but the 45th annual Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade will still be putting smiles on the faces of local families as it ushers in the holiday season.

From 10 to 11:30 a.m. Nov. 27, the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce will be conducting a drive-thru parade starting at Lewiston Road and Kercheval Avenue in Grosse Pointe Farms and making its way a little over a mile along Kercheval through the Village in Grosse Pointe City. This will mark the eighth year that the parade has been organized by the GPCC.

“I think the chamber has done a remarkable job in coming up with a great, creative solution in keeping this tradition alive in this difficult time,” Grosse Pointe City Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak said. “The easy thing to do would have been to cancel it. … I’m really glad to see it moving forward.”

Instead of the bands and floats making their way past stationary spectators, spectators will be driving past parade attractions. GPCC Executive Director Jennifer Palms Boettcher said Kercheval will be closed to regular traffic from Lewiston to Cadieux roads during the parade. Spectators will line up in the vehicles at the start of the parade route at Lewiston and follow one another as they take in the parade sights and sounds, which will occupy the opposite lane of Kercheval.

“We’re hoping cars will go really slow” so that everyone has time to appreciate the parade elements, Boettcher said. “Hopefully, everyone will be patient and kind to each other.”

She said the parade — which is once again taking place the day after Thanksgiving — will be held rain or shine. Spectators are “more than welcome” to drive the parade route more than once, Boettcher said.

To protect parade participants, all of the floats and performers will be spaced apart from each other, Boettcher said.

“We’re trying to keep everybody socially distant and safe during the holiday season,” Boettcher said. “We want to keep the parade participants safe, as well.”

She said the chamber considered not having a parade this year but decided against cancellation after it came up with a format that it felt would protect everyone’s health and safety.

“So many people canceled their events,” Boettcher said. “We just felt the community needed their spirits lifted. We wanted to carry on the tradition.”

The mayors from the five Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods will once again be invited to participate in the parade, as will local school bands and other groups, Boettcher said. Although she didn’t want to give away too many details, she said Santa would be on hand, as would a jazz quartet.

“There is going to be a lot of music, a lot of dancing, fun floats and performances,” Boettcher said.

Before organizers had decided whether they would be holding the parade or not, Boettcher said the GPCC was fielding calls from previous parade participants asking about the status of the event. One especially prominent figure was among those callers.

“It is one of Santa’s favorite spots to stop,” Boettcher said of the parade. “He was one of the first calls I got. He needs to see all of the children.”

To keep the holiday spirit going throughout the season — and to encourage residents to support their local businesses during these challenging times — the GPCC is also sponsoring a gingerbread house contest in which participating businesses will display their creations during the holidays. A map showing the locations of all of the houses will be available from the GPCC starting Nov. 27, Boettcher said.

“People can have fun going all season long to see them,” Boettcher said. “It’s something fun they can do with their family.”

For more information, visit To volunteer for the parade or become a parade sponsor, contact the GPCC at (313) 881-4722 or email