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Santa Claus to skip Whitehorse this year unless funding found

’We’re a not-for-profit. If we don’t have the money for an event we don’t put it on’
The Sourdough Rendezvous Queen and Santa get a ride down Main Street during the Winterval parade in December 2015. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Barring a Christmas miracle, Good Saint Nick will be skipping his annual stop at the Whitehorse Santa Claus parade this year.

Unless money comes through, the parade will be cancelled, said Dean Tower, the president of Unlikely Events Yukon (UEY), the non-profit group that puts it on.

UEY has been putting on the parade since 1994 and usually gets the majority of its funding for the event through the arts fund, which is managed by the Department of Tourism and Culture. This year the group did not get funding, Tower said.

The parade has been a part of UEY’s Winterval Arts Festival. Winterval also encompassed kids crafts, music and other community events that came after the parade proper, Tower said. Those events will also be cancelled if funding can’t be found.

“We were kind of expecting (not to get it this year),” he said. “(The parade) really doesn’t fit with their mandate.”

Angela Drainville, artistic director for UEY, said she was “in support of arts funding going to arts projects,” and that the parade was not an arts project, but a community event.

“We’re a not-for-profit. If we don’t have the money for an event we don’t put it on,” said Tower.

UEY officials received a letter from the Department of Tourism and Culture at the end of August, informing them that the parade would not be receiving arts fund money this year. They were instructed to apply again in September, which they did, Tower said. But the money wouldn’t be available until December, too late for the parade, which usually takes place the last week of November or the first week of December, he said.

UEY met with Mayor Dan Curtis Oct. 12, to ask for more funding.

“We were told no,” said Tower.

“We’ve always put in the legwork for the Santa Claus Parade and the city has been very happy to let us do that,” Tower said. “We can kind of assumed the city would step up but we were told the city wouldn’t give us any more money.”

This year, the city had pledged $1,000 in cash and $1,800 in-kind support. This funding has beem consistent over the years, said city spokesperson Jessica Apolloni.

“Historically, the funding for this event (from the city) has been phenomenally low,” said Drainville. “The mayor didn’t seem to feel this was a city event.”

Curtis said this was the first he had heard of the cancellation, and that he was “pretty confident” there would be “a Santa Claus marching down Main Street.”

City funding for events is determined by committee and there’s no more money to give the parade, he said. Even if money could be found it would have to come “out of the pocket” of some other organization’s event, he said.

“In, short, this time around, it just isn’t possible.”

Regardless of what happens with the parade, Curtis said, the city will host the tree lighting “as it has every year for the last 30 years.”

Douglas Hnatiuk, manager of parks and community development for the city, said UEY never filed reporting for last year’s event. UEY can’t get this year’s $1,000 until that paper work is finished, he said.

Tower said he believed all the paperwork had been completed.

Jonathan Parker, director of policy and communications for the Department of Tourism and Culture, said arts fuding is determined by the Arts Advisory Council, a group made up of artists from the community.

“We don’t provide funding for the Santa Claus parade,” he said.

Department records show UEY received funding from arts fund for the past 10 years, specifically for Winterval, not just for the parade, Parker said. That funding ranged between $10,000 and $20,000 per year.

This year, however, UEY’s application was deemed incomplete by the Arts Advisory Council, and they were asked to apply again for the Sept. 15 deadline, which UEY has done five times before, he said.

Parker said that application was never submitted.

Tower said UEY had submitted all the proper paperwork, and didn’t understand what was different about their original application.

“That was curious,” he said. “We provided all the same information we have in previous years.”

Parker said there might be other funding sources for the parade available from the department.

“We are happy to talk with them,” he said.

Bottom line, Tower said, is that UEY needs a minimum of $7,500 before “they can even approach” potential corporate sponsors for the parade.

“That’s our minimum, our basic, what we need from blanket government funding.”

Tower said if funding were to come from somewhere by Oct. 31, UEY would be able to host the parade. But the organization hasn’t hired anyone yet, and it would be “a bit of a panic.”

When the weather is good the Santa Claus parade draws between 1,500 and 2,000 people, Tower said.

“The parade is an important thing to the community and it’s an important thing for me.”

Contact Lori Fox at