Westmeath warmly welcomes St. Nick
Sean Chase/Daily Observer St. Nicholas arrives in Westmeath Sunday night aboard a haywagon float entered by Kenny's Store. Family and employees got together to construct the clever float with a sleigh donated by Willi Schmidt.
WESTMEATH – It may be one of the small Santa Claus parades in Renfrew County but there was no shortage of Christmas cheer in the heart of Whitewater country Sunday night.
Rain and green grass did not dampen the spirits of folks who lined the Westmeath Road to watch the tiny procession of 10 floats make its way to the community hall. The evening parade was once more hosted by the Westmeath and District Recreation Association.
“It’s a small parade but it has a lot of spirit,” said parade co-ordinator Joanne Savage.
The parade has been a holiday tradition for more than 40 years. A variety of floats and themes rolled out from the historic former Westmeath Public School. Fortunately there was no downpour of late fall rain to deter spectators from taking part. In the past, the parade has faced cancellation due to lack of entries but this wasn’t a consideration this year.
“The community comes out like gangbusters for events like this,” added Savage. “When this community gets together, it gets together for everything.”
Among the floats were entries from Our Lady of Grace Catholic School, the Beachburg Lions Club, Beachburg Public School and an apparatus from the Westmeath station of the Whitewater Region Fire Department. Once the parade turned off the Gore Line into the grounds of the community centre, folks were invited in for hot dogs, hot chocolate and homemade cookies served up by association volunteers.
Wearing his trademark red coat with white piping, Santa Claus dismounted from a haywagon and received a hero’s welcome in the hall where he proceeded to visit with the boys and girls. Escorting St. Nicholas this year was Paul Kenny, co-owner of Kenny’s Store. His brother, Stephen, drove the wagon, while Santa sat in a traditional two-seat sleigh. To fuel the sleigh, a gasoline pump was attached to the rear.
“Santa needed a ride,” explained Paul Kenny. “He just loves that sleigh.”
This is the first year for the family business to be involved in the Westmeath parade. The float was designed and built as a joint project among the family and employees. Kenny said it was an honour to have that all-important final float.
“This is all about the kids,” he added. “They love this.”
Santa will be making one more trip to the Upper Ottawa Valley on Sunday, Dec. 10 when he stops by for the Eganville Santa Claus Parade. The theme for this year's Parade is “A Canadian Christmas” to mark our nation’s 150th birthday. It begins at 1 p.m. at Eganville District Public School.