Trucks Deliver Lights & Smiles

November 2019

If you ask people what they are doing Saturday, December 7, don’t be surprised to hear that they already have plans…and have had this date marked since this time last year. For hundreds of people in Thunder Bay, the annual Parade of Lights signals the kick-off to the Christmas season. Every year since 1998, the Parade of Lights has lit up the winter night, not to mention the faces of countless youngsters, to raise money for local charities.

In 2013 construction firm LH North had just acquired a tractor trailer unit, and co-owners Tom McClement and Dave Heyens saw an opportunity to be involved in the parade. “Let’s see how it goes”, they thought.

Six years later, it is safe to say they have their answer-it is going gangbusters. Each year has featured a different theme. Bob the Builder was chosen for 2014, Frozen (2015), Polar Express (2016), Elf (2017) and Home Alone (2018).

The designs have become more elaborate with each year “We feel that 2016, the Polar Express, was our knockout year.” says Tom’s wife, Melissa. A steam mechanism was set up to simulate the steam from the smokestack, and behind the trains façade, a special heater and even a port-a-potty were concealed. In 2015, the Frozen float featured an actual ice castle.
No detail is too small to make sure that the Christmas fantasy on wheels enchants everyone who lines the parade route-including costumes. After all, what would an Elf float be without Buddy the Elf? Or Frozen float without Anna and Elsa?

The spectators are not the only ones having fun out there. For LH North, parade night also doubles as their staff Christmas party. The more the merrier and staff are encouraged to invite friends and family to join in the fun.

The number of people on the float reflects the growth of the LH North family. When they started in 2013, there were about 15 people on the float. Now, as the years have gone by, the families of the employees have grown as well. Since that first year the number of people on the float has more than doubled. The kids range in age from 4-14, and a good time is had by all. Who wouldn’t with all the pizza, hot chocolate, popcorn and baking that somehow magically appears on the rig?

For the three days leading up to the parade, the shop at LH North is transformed into Santa’s workshop. The reason for doing it is very simple and heartfelt. “Christmas is my favourite holiday and it was a special part of my childhood so I think everyone should experience that. “ says Project Supervisor Tony Provenzano. “I take pride in being a part of the LH Christmas float. The look on the children’s faces and seeing how much they enjoy what we do means everything”. 

As for this year, the theme has been determined, but this writer has been sworn to secrecy, or I risk getting a lump of coal in my stocking. You’ll have to come out on December 7th to find out what the LH North elves have cooked up, and, most importantly, to support the charities that rely on the Parade of Lights for donations.

Kathy Shilliday is a regular contributor and a hawk eye for stories to share. She can be reached at

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