BARRY’S BAY – It’s a critical part of Santa’s float, yet it is often outshone by the big man himself.
Santa’s sleigh has been part of the annual Madawaska Valley Lions Club’s Santa Claus parade for 50 years. For decades, the antique has carried Santa from Kelly Street through downtown Barry’s Bay, escorting Mr. Claus by thousands of children and families.
The sleigh, which sits in storage every year until the big man’s arrival, bears a plate with the inscription McLaughlin Carriage Company.
McLaughlin Carriage Company has quite the history in Canada. It was started by Robert McLaughlin, who had a blacksmith’s shop in the village of Enniskillen, located 20 kilometres northeast of Oshawa. The company began making horse drawn carriages in the mid-19th Century, moving to Oshawa in 1876.
It was the most successful company of its time, producing more than 25,000 carriages a year and grossing one million dollars in 1898. The company began producing automobiles, which eventually evolved into General Motor Company of Canada Limited.
It’s not known how one of these famous carriages came into the MV Lions’ possession, but it is estimated to be more than 100 years old. Although the carriage itself is showing signs of wear and tear, it will still be used for the 51st annual parade in Barry’s Bay, which will be held on December 3.
The Madawaska Valley Lions Club is hoping to restore the carriage sometime next spring. A few volunteers have stepped up, but the club is always open to more help. For more information, contact Tom Smith at 613-756-1712.
Meanwhile, the Lions are urging community members to enter a float into this year’s parade.