There will be several reasons to celebrate during the Art Van Christmas parade this weekend, other than Santa’s early visit to Grand Rapids. This parade serves as a kickoff to the holiday season, and it happens to be the parade’s 100th birthday.
The parade started in 1919 as the Wurzburg’s Santa Clause Parade on Campau Square. Its main goal was to bring people in and excite them for holiday shopping. The parade was soon taken over by the Grand Rapids Jaycees.
It wasn’t until 2010 when Art Van Furniture joined the board for the parade, bringing a partnership with WoodTV8 to broadcast the event on live television.
The parade is currently the second largest in the state and competes with Detroit’s Thanksgiving parade. The event attracts about 30,000 individuals each year, and even more who watch the parade on live television.
Along with Santa’s early visit, promotions coordinator Wayne Bersano said that Miss Michigan 2019 Mallory Rivard will be making a special appearance.
The event is free for families and individual goers, and there will be time for a meet and greet with St. Nick after the parade. More information about the event can be found at https://www.santaparadegr.com/.
There is simply no better way to kick off the 2019 holiday season than the annual Grand Rapids Santa Parade. This year’s parade will mark the 100th year in a row that Santa Claus has come to town the Saturday before Thanksgiving and greeted the glittering eyes & bright smiles of children from Grand Rapids and beyond.
The “real” Santa Claus, known to those with the requisite North Pole clearances as Kraig Haybarker, is from Lowell, Michigan and resides there with his wife. His journey started in 2002 when two young kids met him at church and called him Santa because he literally resembled the jolly gift and joy giver.
He was then presented with the opportunity from the director of the Chamber of Commerce from Lowell to be their Santa during the holidays. Since then, he has completed studies at CWH Santa School and continues to spread joy wherever he goes.
When asked what the most rewarding part of his job was, Haybarker said the best part was obviously the kids and celebrating their innocence. All negative thoughts and troubles disappear in the moment when Haybarker meets children and their families, he said.
“Every visit I make is rewarding in its own way,” Haybarker stated. In his time as Santa, he has worked with hospice programs for young children and shared that he has attended funerals of kids he’s met while dressed in full Santa gear.
“It was the best way to honor them,” Haybarker said.
All parade attendees will have the opportunity to meet Haybarker as Santa on November 23 for the Grand Rapids 100th Anniversary Santa Parade. The parade is expected to start at 9 am. More details regarding the parade and tips for viewers and participants can be found at https://grkids.com/grand-rapids-santa-parade/.