Christmas memories will be on parade in Newcastle

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.”
– Francis P. Church, from the editorial page of The New York Sun, Sept. 21, 1897

Alas, how dreary Newcastle would be if there were no Santa Claus parade! It was a scenario to be contemplated after the death of parade founder Mark Hendrikx earlier this year. But despite the loss of the visionary Hendrikx, a whole new committee rallied to keep the parade — and the dreams of the children of Newcastle — alive.

With a great deal of love, generosity and devotion, the committee members — many of whom are retired school teachers — have been working hard to bring the sixth annual Santa Claus parade to Newcastle.

“Christmas Memories” is the theme of the parade, to be held on Sunday, November 21st.  The theme will pay tribute to Hendrikx, who founded the parade in 2004 and continued as its chief organizer over the past five years.

While the committee was determined to continue Hendrikx’s tradition, Karen Bastas admitted it was a difficult role to fill. “We had nobody to guide us on what it’s been like for the last five years. I think Mark was everything. We’re really missing his support on this. We’re trying. The whole time we’ve been making plans, we keep going back to how he would have handled this, and what he would have done,” she said, reached by phone Monday evening.

Now that the plans for the parade are almost finalized, Bastas said things are working out fine. “It was one of our worries, having to live up to the expectations set by Mark’s work. But we just had a meeting and it’s going really well. It’s going to be really successful,” she predicted.

The parade will begin at the intersection of Brookhouse and King Avenue East (at the corner of Tim Horton’s), starting at 5:30 pm with a 15-minute fireworks display. A banner in memory of Hendrikx — to be carried by three of his five children — will lead off the parade of Christmas-themed floats and marching bands. (The two other Hendrikx children will be in the parade as well, noted Bastas.)

“The banner is just to recognize and to thank Mark for the last five great Santa Claus parades,” she said. It will read, “The Sixth Annual Newcastle Santa Claus Parade in memory of Mark Hendrikx,” and will include pictures of parade buttons from the previous five years, according to Bastas.

“So many memories are in those buttons,” said Bastas. “Mark was buried wearing one of those buttons, the one from the first year of the parade, with a bunny on a Massey tractor.” The buttons were sold each year to help support the parade, and will be on sale again this year for a minimum of $2, she said.

The parade will include over 80 floats, five bands and two choirs, one from Newcastle Public School and one from The Pines Senior Public School. Highlights will include a skating rink float done by one of the hockey clubs, and the Lakeshore float, a huge, beautiful ship that comes from Port Hope, said Bastas.

Many local clubs will also be participating, she said, including the Knights of Columbus, a skating club, cadets, and a number of walkers such as baton twirlers. The Bowmanville Zoo will be on hand as well. Float applications are due this Friday, so a few last minute entries may be added.

The parade is always looking for sponsors, to help cover the cost of the bands, said Bastas. “The bands are the most important part. Band sponsorship costs money, but without the bands we don’t really have a parade,” she said, noting that Ontario Power Generation is one of the parade’s biggest sponsors. “OPG go out of their way to help us, and so does the Municipality.”

Those coming to see the parade are being asked to bring a non-perishable donation for the Clarington East Food Bank.

Along with Karen Bastas, the Newcastle Santa Claus Parade committee members include Cindy Baird, Gus Bastas, Jane Black, Alan Kirby, Philip Palmer, David and Sharon Staples, and Wendy Westwood.

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