Local raccoon helps bring Santa to town

Santa Claus has come to town — and with a helper from Scarborough.

Mike Plumton, a Scarborough resident and self-proclaimed “parader” from the small town of Norwood, has taken part in the Santa Claus Parade for the last three years.  This year he was dressed as a raccoon with a skipping rope as part of the Tim Horton’s float, but last year he got the ultimate honour: being a part of Santa’s float.

“It’s the event that makes Toronto feel like it’s a really small community,” Plumton said.

The annual Santa Claus parade entertained young and old for the 106th year this past Sunday.  Children and parents packed sidewalks along the five-kilometre parade route to get a glimpse of various floats, clowns, marching bands and, of course, the big man himself.

Raised in a small town in central Ontario and now a Scarborough resident, Plumton describes the parade as a feeling of being part of something massive and historical in a large urban city.

“That’s why I do it.  [Toronto] is just so big, everyone’s in it for themselves.  But this day, so many people come together and so many people come to watch.  Everyone’s just excited to see it and to be there, and people kind of forget about everything else. It’s a nice slowdown.”

The parade is the longest-running children’s parade in the world.  With 31 floats, 24 marching bands, and hundreds of clowns, elves, and other creatures, it’s no wonder children and adults alike bear the chilly weather to watch the parade.

Another Scarborough resident, Kayla Grey, 20, was a first-time live parade watcher this year.

“I’ve never ventured down here to see it live before. I can’t believe the thought put into it by some of these families. I actually saw one with a little barbecue, grilling hot dogs!”

The weather was a bit of an issue this year, as temperatures dropped below freezing.   It didn’t stop the crowds though, and Grey said that she’s glad she and her friends came out to watch.

“Yeah, it’s really, really cold, but it’s actually starting to feel like Christmas being here,” Grey said. “I feel like a kid again.”

With the parade running since 1905, many have childhood memories of watching it on TV or coming down and seeing it live.  Plumton described his memories of watching the parade from his small-town home.

“We used to watch it on TV, and we always made this terrible popcorn, and it was always something we would do during that time.  We would always watch it as a family, but I had never seen it live until I was part of it.”