The Chantry Island Chambettes' float in the 2018 Port Elgin parade. 

Hub Staff

In a delegation to Council September 23, Saugeen Shores Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kimberley Inniss-Petersen delivered a proposal to amalgamate the two annual Santa Clause parades, alternating each year between the communities of Southampton and Port Elgin. The intention of the presentation was to gain input and feedback from council members prior to making a decision. Their decision will be based on a vote from their member elected Board of Directors.

Councillor Dave Myette spoke as a delegate to the Chamber of Commerce and acknowledged the weight of such a decision as well as the benefits and costs on both sides that deserve serious contemplation. “As Kimberley has pointed out, there’s a lot of people that would enjoy coming to a bigger, grander parade," said Myette.

“I’ve heard from the Chamber staff that they are really, really pulled six ways to Sunday on this thing," Myette continued. "These people... they end up calling on their parents and their best friends and their brothers and sisters to kick in because as Kimberley has also pointed out, volunteers are tough to get.”

Councillor John Rich inquired about the support from Chamber members in regards to the proposal. Inniss-Petersen explained that although the motion has been discussed at the Board level, a formal member poll has not been conducted, and reminded council that the role of the Board of Directors is to represent the membership.

“The majority of the Board members are in favour of one parade,” announced Inniss-Petersen. “We have had people contact us, Chambers members contact us from Port Elgin and Southampton to express that they are in favour of it."

Rich questioned whether there was any documentation to verify the support from Chamber members, to which the Executive Director noted many positive online comments as a result of the recent Saugeen Shores Hub article that introduced the idea to the community.

See: Chamber looking to host just one Christmas parade per year in Saugeen Shores

Councillor Jami Smith mentioned the convenience of the dual parade for shift-workers whose schedules will often only accommodate attending one parades.

Vice-Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt reiterated Inniss-Petersen’s comment from the presentation saying, “There’s nothing stopping an organization in the community from organizing that parade in the off year." Myatt admitted to it being a delicate decision and noted that their family was in support of one parade.

Councillor Cheryl Grace expressed support for the unified parade. “I also like the idea of looking at this as an opportunity,” lauded Grace, “an opportunity to make a really stunning parade not just for our residents but as a tourism destination event."

Grace recognized the Chamber of Commerce Director of Communications and Administration, Taralyn Golbeck, as a key player in the Santa Clause parades as well as many other community events.

After noting an increase in the Chamber budget this year, Councillor Kristan Shrider asked, “is there an opportunity to look at paid staff to help with the administration, to help with some of the volunteers as well.”

Inniss-Petersen pointed out that the parades are sponsorship funded and that the Chamber has struggled to fill a staff position that has been open for some time and believes finding temporary staff for the parades will also prove difficult and considering the recruitment and training involved it can be a bigger investment than it seems.

Deputy Mayor Don Matheson identified the issue of transportation between the two communities for some residents who can’t drive. Matheson also proposed having the two BIAs involved in the decision making.

Matheson and Shrider both expressed their concern with rushing the decision late in the game for the 2019 parades and suggested the Chamber take more time to gather feedback and wait to make the final call in early spring of 2020.

“I think we need to take all the facts into consideration, look at the Chamber, the whole Chamber for their decision, the BIAs for their decision, and come back to Council early next spring and we can make this decision earlier in the year," said Matheson.

Myette reaffirmed the reasoning from the Executive Director and argued that the suggestion to wait another year before making a decision may not be an option unless a significant increase in volunteers occurs in the immediate future. “I don’t think [the decision to delay one more year] is really grasping what Kimberley’s trying to say here. It’s not really feasible to carry on the way that it’s been carried on so far,” said Myette.

Mayor Luke Charbonneau clarified the Council's role in the decision. “We don’t have the authority to sit here and order the Chamber to host two parades," Charbonneau explained. "This isn’t really a Council decision, this is a Chamber decision and [Innis-Petersen] is here to let us know and hear our thoughts on it,” finished the Mayor.

Outside Council Chambers, Inniss-Petersen elaborated on the Board’s rationale behind the proposal. “They’re not just looking at one parade versus two parades,” stated the Executive Director, “they’re looking at our revenue or the lack of revenue that we generate through these events." Inniss-Petersen added that the Board is also obligated to look at whether or not it is in the best interest of Chamber members and if it falls within the Chamber's mandate.

The Executive Director also admitted the timing for the decision is not ideal but said that it was a long time in the making as their primary organizer for the event had an unexpected emergency and is currently on leave. “It actually goes to reiterate that if there was a problem with our staff we wouldn’t be able to do the parade. We are a staff of three and now we are operating on a staff of two," said Inniss-Petersen.

There has also been a lack of interest so far from outside organizations, said the Executive Director. “We have put our feelers out to other organizers and other community organizations and the response has been lukewarm at best," Inniss-Petersen claimed. “The Chamber has the history of doing the work, of bearing the load, so the expectation is there that we will continue.”

The Executive Director suggested people focus on the opportunity that one parade would entail. "One parade conveys one community... just because we’ve done it this way for the last 20 years doesn’t mean we have to continue doing it this way for the next 20. We have a very rapidly changing business environment and we have to change with it.”

Inniss-Petersen was confident there would be an emergency meeting called prior their next scheduled Board meeting on October 8 to implement a vote on the parades.


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