There was thunder, there was lightning, but nothing could keep the big man in red from hailing in the Christmas season at the National Pharmacies Christmas Pageant on Saturday.
In what some might call a Christmas miracle, the downpour avoided the CBD for the first half of the annual parade, after forecasters predicted up to 25mm, a reward for the estimated crowd of 240,000 South Aussies who braved the conditions.
Santa Clause waved to the adoring crowd of dedicated Christmas revellers as he arrived at Town Hall and wished all of South Australia a “merry and safe Christmas”.
Pageant director Brian Gilbertson welcomed Santa alongside Premier Peter Malinauskas and his family before The Voice star Rachael Leahcar rounded out the festivities with a soulful rendition of Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home).
Mr Gilbertson said he was not surprised by the hundreds of thousands who faced the risk of torrential rain because the “SA public always pulls through”.
“The crowd and the participants were all buzzed,” he said.
“The energy levels were so much higher than when we were at Adelaide Oval because the crowd feels like they are a part of something bigger.
“I love seeing people coming together to celebrate the holiday season and really getting into the Christmas spirit.”
Hundreds of people took their pageant dedication one step further, camping throughout the windy night to secure the ideal spot for the festive spectacle.
While most pageant campers jump at the opportunity to nab a set outside Town Hall, Andrew Gormlie made a more strategic decision this year.
He said he chose to set up his two person tent along King William St in hope the 57 floats would fly by before the showers began – and he was right.
“I don’t think I got rained on once. Even last night my tent did the job,” he said.
The Sheidow Park father said he claimed his spot on the parade route at about 10.30pm Friday evening to ensure his son, Nate, 3, had the best seat in the house for his first ever pageant.
Mother Tamara Seaman said the family had tried to secure tickets to the pageant at Adelaide Oval over the past two years but had always missed out.
“To be honest, I think it was for the best. I’m sure the oval was amazing, but nothing can beat the pageant out on the streets,” she said.
“It is tradition. We grew up drawing on the road with chalk and playing with bubbles and I am just glad Nate got to experience that this year.
“It feels like there is a sense of community when it is in the CBD. It makes it special.”
Saturday’s pageant was also a first for 5-year-old Leo Habib, after the pandemic kept him away from old St Nicholas.
“The Santa float was my favourite one,” he said.
“I tried to yell out to him to tell him what I wanted for Christmas, but I don’t think he could hear me.”
Mother Christina Habib, 54, said the pageant always brings the magic of Christmas into Adelaide and over the past two years it felt as if the magic was missing.
“It was just amazing to see Leo light up with joy,” he said.
“Everyone being together singing and dancing just felt like Christmas was really here for the first time since before the pandemic.”
This year’s pageant marked the 90th anniversary of the historic event, which was first held in 1933, 37 years after the commencement of the Magic Cave.
An estimated 200,000 people flocked to witness the first ever pageant which featured approximately eight floats, four bands and ran for around 40 minutes.
An incoming thunderstorm was threatening to dump up to 25mm of rain on Adelaide’s Christmas Pageant, making it the wettest parade in 62 years.
South Australia had been hit with about more than 140,000 lightning strikes already in the past 24 hours, and centres in the state’s West Coast had received 10mm of rain by the time the pageant began.
BOM senior forecaster Tom Boeck said the bureau was expecting showers in the early morning and predicted a possible thunderstorm.
“There is a relatively good chance of getting a storm through that morning period,” he said.
“We will be advising the pageant organisers of the weather conditions throughout the morning but it will be up to them to decide what happens.”
While overnight the city only experience 0.4mm of rain, the westerly rain was forecast to head towards the city causing 15mm to 25mm of rainfall and a thunderstorm. But the pageant started on time at 9.30am on Saturday.
The pageant recorded its wettest year in 1960 when the parade was nearly cancelled.
Thousands of people are expected to line the streets tomorrow morning for the first time since 2019, after the Covid pandemic forced organisers to hold ticketed events at Adelaide Oval.