Christmas pageant now big Adelaide tradition started by Johnnies' Edward Hayward in 1933

Father Christmas arrives at the end of the 2018 Christmas Pageant through the streets of Adelaide city centre.

The Christmas pageant – the biggest parade of its kind in the world – is an Adelaide tradition born in 1933 from an idea of Mr Bill (Edward Hayward), chairman of John Martin’s department store.

The pageant has been staged every year (except during World War II) on the second Saturday morning of November.

Inspired by the Toronto Santa Claus Parade and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, Hayward decided to mark the lifting of the Depression – and only two years after the Beef Riots in Adelaide – with a parade of fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters leading Father Christmas to John Martin’s store.

From its start with just eight floats and four bands has grown into one of the world’s biggest pageants, attracting crowds up to 400,000 and televised nationally to millions more from 2015.

The pageant weaves through the Adelaide city centre along a 3.35km route, starting on King William Street on South Terrace and ending on North Terrace.

The 2018 parade had 63 floats,15 bands, 250-plus clowns, nine walking sets, 11 dance groups and four choirs. Floats such as Nipper and Nimble, from the earlier pageants, remain part of the tradition.

Also part of the pageant tradition are the pageant queen, king and princesses and princes. They tour the state visiting schools, libraries and children's groups as well as the Women's and Children's Hospital on pageant day to share the magic.

With the closing of John Martin’s in 1998, the pageant has been owned and managed by the state government, through the South Australian Tourism Commission and Events South Australia, and supported by the credit unions of South Australia for 23 years, with National Pharmacies taking naming rights in 2019.

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