TORONTO – Over the next two weekends, there will be plenty to do in Toronto as Gem City kicks off the Christmas season with three events.
Focus in Toronto volunteers have been busy planning the city’s Christmas Parade, to be held on December 4, and their sixth annual Christmas Art Festival, scheduled for December 11.
Christmas at the Castle will join the festival that day, an event at Toronto high school that will feature food trucks, an escape room and activities for the kids.
Led by Brenda Cich, Focus in Toronto has been hosting the Christmas Parade since 2005. A procession featuring the Toronto High School Marching Band, area emergency services, assorted floats and more will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the intersection of Fourth and Myers streets and work your way along Fourth Street to Main Street.
Santa will appear during the parade and then at the Gazebo Commons on North Third and Market streets, where cash prize winners for the top three floats and top three groups will be announced. Groups that missed the deadline to participate in the parade can still register by submitting a request through its website at https://focusintoronto.com as soon as possible.
She noted that the pandemic resulted in the parade being canceled last year, but with the help of local emergency personnel, the group escorted Santa on a surprise visit to town.
Cich said after so much had to be undone, “It was great to see everyone out there waving their hands.”
The following Saturday, the group will meet from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Karaffa Leisure Center with around 40 vendors offering a range of Christmas decorations and unique gift choices.
Cich said vendors will be set up in the communal cafeteria and gymnasium of the former Karaffa Elementary School, with members of the Toronto Band Parents selling food from the kitchen.
She said that with COVID-19 still, unfortunately, a concern, an attempt has been made to space out vendors but there is still space available. Those interested can find an application on the above website.
Cich said Santa Claus will be available to meet the children at various times of the day, with parents encouraged to bring their cameras for photos. All visitors are encouraged to bring a good canning for the Helping Hands Pantry.
Cich added that there will be hourly prize draws throughout the day and a 50-50 draw, with proceeds going to Crossroads Christian Church’s Toys 4 Toronto effort to deliver gifts to local children. in need, the Christmas program with a Toronto police officer and other causes. .
It will be a special year as students from the nearby high school will be hosting an event, also from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day, to raise funds for students to participate in the Close Up program, according to Cich. Josh Franke, a high school social studies teacher, said through this, that students visit Washington and see government officials at work.
In recent years, Toronto students have been fortunate enough to meet with Ohio representatives in Congress, he noted.
“It’s a good opportunity for these kids to see a side of politics that the average citizen doesn’t see” Franke said.
Usually the school’s juniors participate, but this year the seniors were invited because the pandemic prevented them from participating last year.
As a result, 17 Toronto students hope to attend and approximately $ 1,400 is needed for transportation, accommodation, food and related expenses for each.
The Toronto Board of Education recently agreed to sponsor a student, as it has done in the past.
It’s the first year of the fundraiser – which has been dubbed Christmas at the Castle as a nod to the school’s Red Knight mascot – but Franke has said it could go annual.
Divided into various committees, the 17 students reserved various foodtrucks for outdoor parking and planned activities for the children, including photos with Santa Claus and muffins with Mrs. Claus. Admission for children’s activities is $ 5 per family.
Franke was inspired by his experience as the former owner of an escape room in Youngstown.
The event’s escape room will integrate multiple classrooms into a recreation of Santa’s workshop and involve teams of six to solve a puzzle created by mischievous elves.
Franke said reservations can be made through the Toronto HS Closure Program Facebook page starting Tuesday and will continue until the 30-minute sessions are filled.
The group is accepting entries until Monday for a Christmas tree decorating contest, with information available on the same Facebook page or by emailing Franke at [email protected]
Competitors will decorate 4 foot tall pre-lit trees, all with a unique theme, that morning. So far, they include local library staff, the school football team, and students in a high school anatomy class, among others, Franke said.
Draws for a variety of prizes offered by businesses in the region will be held during the event.
Franke said every aspect will support student fundraising efforts, with each food truck donating $ 150 to participate.
He expressed his gratitude to the local businesses and groups who donated prizes, the school district administrators and others who supported him.
Franke said planning for the Christmas castle has been a good experience for the students to build upon in the future. “This is a great learning opportunity for them that will help them lead organizations in their future careers” he predicted.
Cich said there were plans to hold the student fundraiser on another date, but encouraged them to do so on the same day as the Christmas art festival. “I think we will both benefit from having them at the same time”, she said.