a peek inside the fishbowl

06 Dec, 2009

25 Days of Christmas: days four and five

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Ottawa for kids|Easy ways to make kids happy

Saturday December 5, 2009We’re really getting into the Santa stuff now! The letters are mailed and Christmas is on track here at the casa Fishbowl.

Day four (Friday, which was a PD day) was about helping Nana and Papa decorate their tree, put together a gingerbread house, AND sleep over at their place while Mummy and Daddy went out on a date which included sushi and a work-related gathering. For those of you – ahem, MARLA – who follow my annual holiday shoe dilemma I will confess that I bought new shoes, got in the car, drove a few blocks towards the party, and then circled back home after I decided that I should wear boots instead. My shoe issues never end! :)

Day five (Saturday) was about the Ottawa Help Santa Toy Parade, a great new addition to our family advent.

We parked on the street at Kent and Slater and walked towards Parliament Hill, ending up just shy of the Hill itself (but still within view).

Ottawa Help Santa Toy Parade 2009

I have to confess that I was somewhat worried about the crowds. If you’ve ever been to Canada Day on Parliament Hill you know what I’m talking about. But it wasn’t like that at all. It was entirely manageable, even with little kids. I saw a lot of kids in strollers and wagons and everyone had a spot to see.

It was really fun. I took all of my own advice (and that of the moms I talked to beforehand): we brought a new toy to donate as well as some coins, brought a thermos of hot chocolate and we all bundled up as much as we could. Even though it wasn’t even that cold out we totally froze. Our bodies just cannot generate enough heat when we’re standing still!

We gave our toy right at the beginning. I welled up when I saw the gigantic trailer full of donations – knowing that it was only HALF of the toys that were going to be donated that night (because we were at the halfway point.) I was thinking of all the joy those gifts are going to bring to local families. Honestly Ottawa, you rock.  

The rest of the time was devoted to float watching.

I didn’t take photos of ALL the floats, but as I looked over my photos this morning I realized there were some clear winners (keeping in mind that this is a community parade, not Macy’s Thanksgiving, so the floats are a little more humble):

My pick for the “Best Marketing” and “Make me Laugh out Loud” category:

Ottawa Help Santa Toy Parade 2009

If you look carefully at the plastic dome on top of the car you will see (presumably) the Garlic King himself, waving to his legion of fans.

I’m not entirely sure what the dome was supposed to represent. Was the king trapped in a snowglobe? Was he a toy king packaged up for sale for Christmas? Was this a replica of the Popemobile? Nonetheless, BRAVO TO THE GARLIC KING. I have nothing but respect for someone who names himself after the bulb of such a pungent (albeit delicious) perennial.

(Mark turned to me awhile afterwards and told me he was craving a shawarma.)

Tied for the “invokes the most family discussion” category is the War Amps float:

Ottawa Help Santa Toy Parade 2009

… complete with the scary robotic alien child that never failed to freak me out as a child. What’s more, they had a pretend train coming out the side of the float, bright lights and loud train whistle and all, you know, because it’s fun to pretend that we might get hit by a train. A small reminder to PLAY SAFE EVERYONE!

In all seriousness this was one of the best floats at the parade in terms of detail and production value. And the kiddies they were transporting were beaming and full o’ Christmas spirit. And they were handing out candy canes. Yay!

The other float that tied for the “invokes the most family discussion” category was this one:

Ottawa Help Santa Toy Parade 2009

One of my daughters leaned in and asked me to explain the “Miss Teen” concept. Have we really never discussed beauty contests before? Oy.
Winner of the “Most Ironic” category, was the fire juggling act positioned directly behind one of the antique fire engines:

Ottawa Help Santa Toy Parade 2009

Anyway, yes, the floats were good. But there was one that we really wanted to see, and that was the big guy himself:

Ottawa Help Santa Toy Parade 2009

Ottawa Help Santa Toy Parade 2009

We had an extra long visit with Santa. There was something wrong with his float! He stalled in front of us for quite some time.

I bet you’re wondering, how many fire fighters does it take to fix Santa’s sleigh?

Here’s the answer:

Ottawa Help Santa Toy Parade 2009

We weren’t worried. Santa was in capable hands. We were just happy to have the opportunity to gaze upon Santa a little longer, and, guess what? He let people touch his jingle bells.

Ottawa Help Santa Toy Parade 2009

After Santa left no one stuck around to see what floats came afterwards. We didn’t either, but just happened to see them as we made our way back to the car. I think the street-cleaners should be decked out with Christmas lights too. Don’t you?

For day six (today), we have something extra special planned. I’ll write more about it tomorrow!

9 Responses to "25 Days of Christmas: days four and five"

1 | Gliding through motherhood

December 6th, 2009 at 10:01 am


Looks like a fun parade! But you know the garlic king’s van? He drives it around like that year round not just in parades ;) Well ok, looks like he added a few Xmas lights for good measure.

2 | Trish

December 6th, 2009 at 10:11 pm


The “Most Ironic” winner was also “Most Intentional”: Brigitte (fire fans) and Sophie (fire poi) can only ‘burn’ for about 5 minutes before needing to refuel their wicks, so they had to place their container of fuel on the back of the old fashioned fire truck to allow them to re-dip and spin fire for the length of the parade. The proximity of the firemen & their truck provided an extra element of safety that a regular float could not. Looks like it was a beautiful parade. Nice pics & commentary.

3 | Vicky

December 6th, 2009 at 10:50 pm


I was actually disappointed they changed the parade to a night time event. I was going to take the kids out to see it. Oh well maybe next year. Looking forward to your big surprise tomorrow!

4 | Shan

December 7th, 2009 at 12:29 am


Looks like a great parade!

5 | meanie

December 7th, 2009 at 8:19 am


i loved it being at night – the kids thought it was exciting to “stay up late” and be in the big city at night time. and yes, seeing how generous ottawa is was just so heartwarming, and gave way for good dialogue with the kiddies :)

6 | Valerie

December 7th, 2009 at 12:43 pm


you got lucky with Santa stalling in front of you – we were stuck with a huge space of nothingness, getting cold but unwilling to abandon before the big guy came!

My kids loved the firemen on the little motorbikes, zipping around everywhere and popping wheelies.

7 | Valerie

December 7th, 2009 at 12:45 pm


btw, thanks again for the advent calendar idea. If we hadn’t pre-planned, we wouldn’t have realized that yesterday was the only day we could get the tree and probably not done it because it didn’t feel Christmasy yet with no snow. Hurray for last night’s skiff. :)

8 | Know well.

December 7th, 2009 at 4:48 pm


We too took in the parade and from the sounds of it, we were standing in close proximity to your family (Bank and Wellington). Santa’s sled stalled about 50 feet before reaching us. It was a pretty surreal moment. The float’s generator died which turned off the lights on Santa’s sled. It also (and this is the funny part) turned off the air compressors that were inflating two big penguins on the front of the float. They slowly deflated like the wicked witch in the Wizzard of Oz and poor old Santa sitting there in the dark, being a good sport. He was very good about it. We were freezing at this point. My youngest daughter was begging us to go….and skip Santa.

I think the night-time slot is good. Ottawa as you know has mucho magical lighting in the downtown area, which makes it extra special. But here’s how I’d make it better. 1) half the floats 2) deal with the Nutcracker driving conflict so that the floats don’t come to a grinding halt for what seemed like forever 3) more marching bands 4) at least one set of pipers (bagppipes rock!) and 5) make sure Santa’s generator is all gased up. ;-)

9 | Know well.

December 7th, 2009 at 5:02 pm


Oh and more clowns please. Here is a photo of my friend Roco the Clown having a great time in this year’s parade.


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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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