Santa Claus parade has its moment of Defiance

Laura Katterheinrich and Kailea Holbrook have been marching for miles to prepare for their trip to Toronto.

“Sometimes we’d get two periods of class time to go out and march around town,” Holbrook said.

The two young musicians travelled eight hours by bus from Defiance, Ohio with their high school marching band to be in this year’s Santa Claus Parade.

Katterheinrich and Holbrook come from the northwest corner of Ohio, an area they call “corn country.” They said it’s a small place of about 17,000 people so to be in Toronto has been pretty exciting.

“We went to the Eaton Centre yesterday,” Holbrook said. “Our whole city could fit in there.”

Band director Cathy Booth said she and band’s contingent of 135 musicians headed north for the parade because of advice from a travel agent.

“It’s the first time our band’s been outside the United States,” Booth said, noting they’ve been making the most of it, taking in sights such as the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre, Medieval Times and a performance of We Will Rock You.

“It was so amazing,” Katterheinrich said, of her big-city theatre experience. “That’s why we can’t stop singing the rock songs now.”

Defiance High School is one of 23 marching bands in this year’s parade. Pam McRae works with the Santa Claus Parade band staff making sure everything runs smoothly with the approximately 2,000 participants. It’s no small feat.

“We get the bands in the parade, keep them safe and secure and we get them out of the parade,” McRae said.

McRae works alongside her brother, son and sister-in-law. Her father was involved with the parade for 52 years and she’s been doing it for almost 25.

“It’s a real family tradition,” McRae said. Despite the colder weather, McRae says it’s the enjoyment of the occasion that keeps bringing her back.

For Katterheinrich and Holbrook, this is their last year with Defiance’s marching band, but they won’t soon forget their trip to Canada.

“Not a lot of us have the chance to get out of the country,” Katterheinrich said. “So to be able to come with all of our friends and be together was a great experience.”