The Portage Holiday Parade returned to the city this year thanks to a partnership between the city and the Portage Kiwanis Club, and its success on Saturday ensures it won’t be going away again anytime soon. The parade marched down Central Street to Founders Square Park and featured floats from the Portage Police Department, the Salvation Army, and Kiwanis Kids as well as a special fire truck guided by Rudolph to bring Santa to the Christmas tree.
The parade and subsequent tree-lighting were organized by the teamwork of the Portage Event Partnership (PEP) and the Kiwanis Club in Portage. The event was brought back as a way to bring the Portage community closer to each other.
“We want Portage to have a sense of community, and with COVID and everything, we’re finally able to get together and do nice things for the city,” said Norma Laboy, executive administrative assistant to the Mayor of Portage Sue Lynch. “Kiwanis decided to bring back the parade because we haven't had it in many years. It was the perfect partnership: they did the parade, and then we did the coordinating and all of that for the tree lighting.”
Despite the chill weather, the turnout for the parade was impressive, especially considering that the Holiday Parade hasn’t happened in years.
“I'm ecstatic with the turnout,” said City of Portage Mayor Sue Lynch. “I'm happy that all these families came out, and I'm glad that we have Santa here. The igloo is filled with kids telling him what they want for Christmas. The whole thing is just absolutely beautiful, and I'm really excited about it.”
During the parade, Kiwanis members collected donations for Toys for Tots. By the end of the route, they had literal wagonloads of donations, a true testament to the charitable spirit of Portage.
“Our community is wonderful for Toys for Tots,” said Lynch. “We have seen a lot of toys come in tonight, so this event will live on until Christmas by giving kids who don’t normally get gifts toys.”
“We've received a lot of toys,” said Patty Boyer, president of Portage’s Kiwanis Club. “This is our first year, so we're hoping to get bigger as more people find out about it. It'll be bigger next year.”
The city and Kiwanis are already planning for next year’s Holiday Parade, currently scheduled for the first Saturday of December 2023. While no plans are set in stone quite yet, both groups agree that things are going to get bigger.
“It's only gonna get bigger. I can see this growing every year,” said Lynch. “This was a partnership between PEP and Kiwanis, and it came together so beautifully.”
Boyer and Kiwanis Board Member Renee Akers also emphasized how important teamwork was to the success of the event.
“We did have a lot of outside help,” said Akers. “We had people that weren't even members of Kiwanis that came out to help us” city workers, friends, and family. It does take quite a few people to get an event like this organized.”
“A lot of people stepped up and really helped us out,” said Boyer.
Beyond public support, private support from local businesses also helped to make the parade a success.
“I want to thank our sponsors too for helping us pay for the lights,” said Laboy. “We've had about seven sponsors, US Steel is one of the major sponsors, without whom we wouldn't be able to do this.”
With a great community turnout, the Portage Holiday Parade is here to stay. The combined efforts of the City of Portage’s PEP, Kiwanis, and the community have helped to create a fun evening and provided kids across the Region with toys thanks to the generous donations to Toys for Tots by Portage residents.
“It's a community coming together,” said Lynch. “That's what this is all about. It's bringing our community together in Portage.”
To keep up to date on what’s happening in Portage, visit the city’s website at www.portagein.gov
To learn more about Kiwanis or find the closest club to you, visit www.kiwanis.org