GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kriss Kringle will return to downtown Grand Rapids this year after the city brought together a number of organizations to save the annual Santa Parade.
The Gentex Grand Rapids Santa Claus Parade is scheduled for Nov. 18.
“This is an important time for our community as we continue this 102-year tradition,” City Manager Mark Washington told News 8 after the parade’s revival was announced Thursday. “One of the things that makes Grand Rapids special is the way that we come together and we make things happen. I so much appreciate all of our community partners for this.”
He said the parade would help emphasize the good things going on around Grand Rapids.
“It gives our whole community hope, it brings us together, it’s that special time of the year,” he said. “To not have a Christmas parade would just not be consistent with all the things that are indicative of our return to how things were before the pandemic.”
The Grand Rapids Junior Chamber said two weeks ago that it was canceling the parade this year, citing a “recent leadership changeover and chapter capacity constraints.”
Grand Rapids Office of Special Events Manager Evette Pittman said after that announcement, the office heard from people who wanted the city “to do everything possible to keep this great tradition alive.”
“We went to work immediately to do just that,” Pittman stated.
Her office looped in a number of organizers, volunteers and business leaders, including people who have helped organize the Amway River Bank Run, St. Patrick’s Day Parade and fireworks displays to collaborate with the Junior Chamber.
“This has been a huge undertaking in less than two weeks,” event organizer Russ Hines said, thanking all the people and groups that came together to make the parade happen. “We are so excited.”
Pittman said that the parade will cost about $50,000. She explained that if organizers raise extra money they don’t need this year, it will be set aside to fund the parade next year. Most of the cash will come from sponsors, including name sponsor Gentex.
“It’s not every day you get asked to save Christmas. How do you say no to that?” Gentex Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communications Craig Piersma told News 8.
Piersma said the Zeeland-based automotive supplier was a parade sponsor last year and was even more excited to do it this year because the company now has operations in Grand Rapids.
“We need to be part of this community, just like we have been on the lakeshore for five decades,” he said.
He said Gentex has experience supporting “lots of parades” will contribute some custom truck-and-trailer rigs and costumes.
Other sponsors include Meijer, Experience Grand Rapids, AHC Hospitality and WOOD TV8 as the parade’s media partner.
“WOOD TV has been a partner and supporter of the Santa Parade for decades, and so it was really sad to see the situation and then really exciting to say, ‘We can bring this back,'” WOOD TV8 Vice President and General Manager Julie Brinks said. “The support from the community, the support from the city and from business partners is going to make this happen. It’s really a special time and a great joy for our city to have this event.”
Pitmann said the city is still accepting sponsors. Anyone interested in participating can reach out to the Office of Special Events at email@example.com. Organizers are also looking for volunteers, who will be organized by the Fans of Valley Field.
The parade will begin at 10 a.m. Nov. 18 at Lyon Street and Monroe Avenue NW, head down Monroe to Monroe Center, continue to Division Avenue and then east on Fulton Street to Jefferson Street.
“We decided, let’s just make the route a little bit shorter, a little bit more compact. So we’re going to use … mostly the old St. Patrick’s Day route,” well-known West Side community organizer Ed Kettle said.
The parade will be followed by a free party for families and kids at the First United Methodist Church parking lot on Fulton Street near Jefferson, with activities provided by the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and Family Promise of West Michigan.
“We get to meet Santa, we get to have crafts and some food and a little bit of entertainment. It will be a perfectly short and sweet end to a parade,” Audrey Kawel, director of faith development at First United Methodist Church, said. “As a parent of three kids myself, I know exactly what kids need at the end of a parade, and it’s a little bit of food and some fun and then to carry joy and the spirit of Christmas with them home.”
—News 8’s Meghan Bunchman contributed to this report.