Santa comes to town

Santa arrives before the adoring crowds in Wellington's Santa parade.
Santa arrives before the adoring crowds in Wellington's Santa parade.
An entertainer delights a youngster at the Santa parade in Wellington on Sunday.
An entertainer delights a youngster at the Santa parade in Wellington on Sunday.
A shark-themed float makes its way down Lambton Quay.
A shark-themed float makes its way down Lambton Quay.
An expectant youngster keeps an eye out for Santa's arrival.
An expectant youngster keeps an eye out for Santa's arrival.
The big man himself greets onlookers.
The big man himself greets onlookers.

The balmy weather was a far cry from the North Pole for Santa's annual appearance downtown.

More than 60,000 people lined inner-city streets from Lambton Quay to Manners St for the Santa parade this afternoon.

A marching band, clowns, stilt-walkers and gymnasts entertained the crowds, with floats carrying characters from the Pixar movie Ice Age proving an especial hit with youngsters.

Gold medal-winning Paralympian Mary Fisher served as Grand Marshal of the parade, while Olympic swimmers Tasha Hind and Samantha Lucie-Smith also made an appearance - though an unwieldy blimp in the shape of a cartoon shark seemed to make more of an impression on the little ones.

The weather couldn't have been better, with sunshine and a temperature of 20 degrees Celcius.

Fiona Gibb was out with her sons Daniel, 4, and Roan, 6, who had brought along a packed lunch of apricots and pretzels to keep them going for the afternoon.

Roan in particular had a ''big day'' ahead of him, with a ticket to the Wellington Phoenix game at Westpac Stadium this evening.

It was her first experience of the parade, ''but the boys came last year with their granny.'' For them, Father Christmas was the chief drawcard, she said.

Further down Willis St, Fraser Bourke, 2, Evie Bourke, 4, and their cousin Perry Gendall, 4, had a prime view of the action from their parents' shoulders. Mum Sarah Bourke couldn't see quite so well, but she said it was an exciting day for the children.

Wellington City Council spokeswoman Katie Jans said the success of the event was weather-dependant, but conditons were "fantastic" and the event had gone to plan.

The parade will be followed by Santa's Party in the Park event in Waitangi Park at 3.30pm, and Exodus Carols by Candelight from 7.30pm.

Santa delights the crowds as he winds his way through central Wellington.
Santa delights the crowds as he winds his way through central Wellington.

The Dominion Post