GROSSE POINTE FARMS/GROSSE POINTE CITY — When the 44th annual Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade makes its way down Kercheval Avenue the day after Thanksgiving, thousands of spectators will again enjoy the sights and sounds of marching bands, community groups and floats.

GROSSE POINTE FARMS/GROSSE POINTE CITY — When the 44th annual Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade makes its way down Kercheval Avenue the day after Thanksgiving, thousands of spectators will again enjoy the sights and sounds of marching bands, community groups and floats.

File photo by Erin Sanchez


It takes a ‘Village’ — and more — to put on Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 22, 2019

GROSSE POINTE FARMS/GROSSE POINTE CITY — When the 44th annual Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade makes its way down Kercheval Avenue the day after Thanksgiving, thousands of spectators will again enjoy the sights and sounds of marching bands, community groups and floats.

The parade — whose theme this year is “Hometown Heroes” — will start at 10 a.m. Nov. 29 at Lewiston Road and Kercheval Avenue in Grosse Pointe Farms, making its way a little over a mile to Kercheval and Cadieux Road in Grosse Pointe City.

This is the seventh year the parade has been organized by the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce. But while it might look seamless to viewers, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to pull off this major community event.

In an email interview, Jennifer Palms Boettcher, executive director of the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce, said more than 100 volunteers are needed to produce the parade.

“We get participation from students, clubs and organizations, chamber members, chamber staff and their family members,” Boettcher said. “Some of the other volunteers are Grosse Pointe Rotary and the (Grosse Pointe) Lions Club. There is no minimum age as long as they are able to help carry a banner. Other volunteer positions consist of managing a section of the parade and street guards protecting the crowds from oncoming traffic.”

Joe Stolarski, of Grosse Pointe Farms, a parade section leader, is one of those volunteers. He said this will be his fourth year helping out; his wife works for the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce, which is how he got involved.

“It’s fun,” Stolarski said. “It’s the best way to see the parade. … I enjoy the parade, and I love to help.”

As a section leader — there are usually about eight per parade — Stolarski said his job includes making sure floats and community groups are in the right order, and that parade marchers have the proper banners they need to carry. He also works with public safety officers to keep the traffic flow open until the streets are officially closed for the parade. Stolarski has to coordinate with other section leaders via cellphone or radio to keep the entire parade moving forward smoothly.

“You get everybody where they’re supposed to be (and) tell them to keep a specific distance (from the group in front of them) so there isn’t any choppiness to the parade itself,” he explained.

Also pivotal to parade operations are the public safety officers stationed throughout the route.

“The police departments in every city work with us to assure the crowd is safe and the parade is a successful event year after year,” Boettcher said.

Grosse Pointe City Sgt. Thomas Martindale is the parade commander, a title he’s held for the last three years. He said there are roughly 50 officers from all of the Pointes who work the parade, including bicycle officers and officers stationed at every intersection along the route.

“We get a lost kid every year,” Martindale said of the parade, whose attendance has historically been estimated at about 10,000.

Martindale said the officers on the night shift post notices about parade-related street closures and no parking, and officers the morning of the parade look for any cars that might still be parked on the street to see if the owners can move them before the festivities begin, preferably by 8 a.m.

Martindale also coordinates with the Detroit Police Department’s Mounted Police Division, which he said usually leads the parade. Last year, Martindale was able to get the U.S. Coast Guard to do a flyover for the parade, and he’s hoping they’ll be able to do the same this year.

“They’ve been great,” Martindale said.

People in uniform aren’t the only municipal employees who pitch in. Martindale said the Department of Public Works — helmed by Public Service Director Pete Randazzo — also tackle critical tasks, including setting up barricades and roping off areas.

“The DPW does so much behind-the-scenes work,” Martindale said.

Martindale said the parade crowd is usually “really great,” but he does want newcomers to know that any pets they bring should be leashed. All of the municipal parking lots and the Village parking garage will be open, and attendees can also park on nearby side streets, where permitted, but Martindale said that anyone doing so needs to obey parking rules and not block driveways.

Boettcher said that parade planning begins after Jan. 1, when they select a theme and create a logo and artwork for marketing materials. She said the chamber “organizes every aspect of the parade,” including marketing, soliciting sponsorships and community organizations, asking for volunteers, finding floats and costumed characters to make appearances, and locating festive vehicles to be in the parade.

Each year, there are “approximately 60 (parade) entries, and every entry has anywhere from two to 100 participants,” Boettcher said.

The parade will be preceded by the Grosse Pointe Lions Club’s 22nd annual Jingle Bell Family Fun Walk/Run, which will start at 9 a.m. on the parade route. Registration and packet pickup will start at 8 a.m. that morning. For more information or to register for the run/walk, visit the Grosse Pointe Lions Club Facebook page.

Because of the parade and the run, Boettcher said, Kercheval will be closed to vehicular traffic from Lewiston to Cadieux starting at around 9 a.m. Nov. 29. It will reopen to traffic after the parade is over and floats and marchers have been cleared off the roads — sometime around 11:30 a.m., she said.

When the parade is over, Boettcher said, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the Whiskey Six, 646 St. Clair St., from noon to 3 p.m. to meet with local children.

“Come get your photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus!” Boettcher said.

For more information, contact the GPCC at (313) 881-4722 or visit www.grossepointechamber.com.