BY GEORGE MARATOS

Arlin McFarlane has always had a passion for parades — from watching the elaborate ones in Montréal as a child to the politically motivated during her days living in Vancouver and to the annual Burning Away the Winter Blues event in Whitehorse — parades have always been a big part of her life.

The long-time Yukoner even smiles bashfully when I call her the “Parade Lady”.

McFarlane’s latest parade project is Winterval, scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 6, at 11 a.m., and starting from the White Pass & Yukon Railroad Building.

“It’s the new Santa Parade,” explains McFarlane with excitement as she chews on a cranberry muffin. “The Santa Parade in Whitehorse is really small and I ended up organizing it last year and I remember looking at that parade and thinking, ‘This is the saddest parade I have ever seen’.”

McFarlane is quick to reassure that it isn’t the performers who were the disappointment, but the number of parade-goers.

“Sure we’ve got Santa and the fire truck and the lit-up garbage truck,” said McFarlane. “And of course Mr. and Mrs. Yukon bravely sit in the back of the truck and the seniors are in a white limo with all the windows done up, but there isn’t that parade feel.”

Because of that, McFarlane made it her goal to both make the parade more colourful and offer something where the performers aren’t freezing.

“I wanted to give it a new name because I want it be very multi-cultural and very inclusive,” said McFarlane. “I want to include all the winter Christmas traditions and really I just want to spruce it up.”

McFarlane has committed at least three years to organizing Winterval and admits this first year will see modest advances, with her colourful pageantry vision incorporated to the beginning and the ending of the parade.

McFarlane notes while the parade route is short, beginning at the White Pass & Yukon Railroad Building at the foot of Main Street and ending at the Elijah Smith Building, she assures it will have more spice.

I want to see the parade stop at each intersection and then have some kind of performance.

McFarlane says one idea is to have 60 or so brownies hop off a truck and run around it with flags making a variety of different poses while they do so.

She says eventually she would like to see the brownies walking around as large salmons made of bamboo and fabric fly overhead.

“Ultimately what I would like to work toward is a parade in the air with everyone involved,” smiles McFarlane. “I want to see lots of colour and lots of things that are up in the air and easy to see.”

McFarlane adds while things are on track this year, thanks to what she calls a great team of elves, she is already thinking ahead to the 2009 Winterval.

“I want to have a making week where Yukoners come down for a week and make pageantry and with that I’ll draw more people to the parade,” explains McFarlane. “My real goal is to have twice as many people with more than twice the amount of pageantry … I want a bunch of big colourful things in the air.”

Spoken like a true “Parade Lady”.

The fun begins Saturday, Dec. 6, at 11 a.m., when Santa Claus arrives at the White Pass building. From there, the parade will proceed down Main Street to the Elijah Smith Building.

Santa will then be available for photos until 1:30 p.m. In the lobby of the Elijah Smith Building.

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