Guests of honour Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus wave to the crowd during the 2012 parade in downtown Penticton. This year the pair will lead the parade again on Saturday which coincides with the DPA Winter Festival featuring a number of family-friendly holiday activities.

Penticton Winter Festival kicks off holidays

Santa Claus will be parading down Penticton streets on Saturday during the Penticton Winter Festival.

What evolved from a small light up and parade is now a three-day winter festival for the whole family.

“We are now calling it the Winter Festival and the reason is we are encompassing all the stuff happening downtown into one big event,” said Downtown Penticton Association executive director Kerri Milton.

The DPA is helping to usher in the holiday season with the 16th annual Royal LePage Santa Claus Parade. Santa will be coming to town with the parade kicking off with the jolly man directing the action at 4:30 p.m. starting at Main Street and White Avenue. The parade then travels north on Main Street to Westminster Avenue where it turns up Front Street then onto Lakeshore Drive.

The Community Christmas Market runs 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday on Main Street. Numerous empty storefronts throughout downtown will be taken over by Penticton’s favourite Christmas vendors. Over 75 different products, goods, jewelry, baking, preserves, health and beauty products, accessories, children’s wear, clothing and gift certificates will be available. A map of where vendors will be located is available at

The first Gingerbread House Contest entries will be on display at various businesses until next week when the public votes will be counted up and the winner crowned.

Also on Saturday the new Penmar Theatre is inviting the public to drop in between 12:30 and 4 p.m. to see what their vision for the building is. They will be offering free hot chocolate and will be playing traditional Christmas cartoons on the screens.

Later that evening they are hosting a 50s-themed party with the screening of Grease. Wine and cheese will be served.

The annual Walk to Bethlehem, which draws hundreds to St. Andrew’s Church, takes place on Saturday from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.  There is no admission to enter and visitors will be treated to a preview of the production Miracle on 34th Street that is running at St. Andrew’s Church Dec. 13 and 14 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. There will also be a children’s craft room, marketplace, street nativity and a photo booth.

Minister Colin Cross said they are trying something new this year with the nativity scene.

“We host a Tuesday morning street breakfast that is called God’s Kitchen and have about 100 people that get fed. This year some of those people are going to take part in the nativity to tell the story of the birth of Jesus,” said Cross. “We thought this was an extraordinary idea that they get to minister to us instead of always being the objects of charitable giving. It gives them a chance to give back as well.”

The Winter Festival is just one of the events the DPA has held recently. Over 30 businesses in downtown Penticton participated in a Black Friday promotion, offering deals to customers on Nov. 29.

“We have received lots of positive comments about that. All the businesses downtown said it went really well and they can’t wait until next year, so we hope to make it even bigger,” said Milton.