| Dec 11, 2008

Dec 11/08 - Santa's Sleigh

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Feature Article - December 11, 2008 Shhh...Santa’s Sleigh calls Tichborne homeBy Julie Druker

Liz Norton, Tania, Dominic, Katerina and Bob Veley prepare Santa's float at its home in Tichborne pre-parade day

The Veley/Norton family of Tichborne are the proud keepers of the Santa float that made its annual appearance last weekend and has for the past 17 years in both the Parham/Tichborne and Sharbot Lake Santa Claus parades.

It was at the Veley home in Tichborne, specifically in Bob Veley’s workshop, that the original float was built and is where its newest version hangs disassembled for most of the year until the Veley/Norton clan (with the help of a few close friends like carpenter Norm McIntosh of Parham) bring it back to life just in time for the parades.

On the Friday afternoon before both parades, family members including Liz Norton and Bob’s daughter-in-law Tania Veley, who makes the yearly excursion from Hamilton with her children Autumn, Dominic and Katerina specifically to help prepare the float, are busy painting and assembling parts.

Bob Veley is the owner and operator of Veley’s Automotive and is the Captain of the Central Frontenac District #4 Fire crew. He recalled how the Parham/Tichborne parade came about.

“It all started out under the old Hinchinbrooke Fire Department about 17 years ago; two guys phoned me up one night and said, ‘Let’s put on a Santa Claus parade.’”

They were deputy chief Paul Lowery and assistant deputy chief Bernie Quinn.

“I said yeah, how long do we have? So we threw together the first parade in 2 weeks. And it was a good one. We had 26 floats,” Bob said.

Back then funds for the fire fighters and their equipment were raised mostly from the local community. The three men felt like giving something back and so the parade was born.

The Veleys continue to give back every year as they prepare Santa’s float, using their own time and funds. Bob closes down his shop for four business days in order to build the float on his flat bed truck. In total, it’s at least a 48 hour job.

For the Veleys preparing the float is an honour as well as a family tradition. Bob reminisces about it. “I do it for the grandkids and also to honour my late wife Susan Veley; it [the parade] was her baby. She did all of the painting and all of the signs.” Susan passed away in May 2003 of cancer.

Liz Norton, Bob’s current partner, now does a lot of the organizing of the floats and with her input new floats this year included Lynn Cronk of Eastern Cowboys and 93.5 KIX FM from Kingston.

“You need to keep this kind of stuff going, get the kids out here and keep it going. It‘s really important for the community,” Liz said.

The Santa float is a family affair that will likely continue to pass through generations of Veleys to come. Katerina, 6, was riding on board the float as Santa’s little helper this year and she did her fair share of prep work too.

Thanks to the Veley/Norton clan the Santa float is always a spectacle for the eyes and ears at the Parham/Tichborne and Sharbot Lake Santa Claus parades.

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