Snow White float in the 2004 Pageant.
The Adelaide Christmas Pageant is a parade held annually in the South Australian capital of Adelaide. Recognised as a heritage icon, the pageant is a state institution and is sponsored by four local credit unions. Since 1996 it has been known as the Credit Union Christmas Pageant. It is the second-largest parade of its kind in the world, following only Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and in the Commonwealth of Nations.
Established in 1933, the event is staged on the second Saturday of November every year, usually from 9.30am. It comprises a procession of 85 sets and 1,700 volunteers, including some 63 floats, 15 bands, 164 clowns, dancing groups, and walking performers, all culminating in the arrival of Father Christmas.
The pageant takes place in the Adelaide city centre, along a 3.35 kilometre route which commences on King William Street at South Terrace, and concludes on North Terrace, wherefrom Father Christmas proceeds to the Magic Cave, originally in the John Martin's building, and now in the rebuilt David Jones building on the same site. (The route sometimes changes slightly due to building or road works.)
Before and after the pageant, Adelaide Metro's public transports are given more frequency to accumulate the crowd.
Adelaide's Christmas Pageant was founded by Sir Edward Hayward, owner of the Adelaide department store John Martin's, who was inspired by the Toronto Santa Claus Parade and Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He opened the first 'Children's Christmas Parade' on 18 November 1933 at the height of the Great Depression. It was a success; running for around 40 minutes with just 8 floats and 3 bands, it attracted 200,000 spectators and from then the tradition of the John Martin's Christmas Pageant or as it was affectionately known the 'Johnnie's Christmas Pageant' was born. Father Christmas was introduced in 1934 and tradition of the pageant finishing at the Magic Cave (itself created in 1905) was established.
During the war years of 1941-1944, the pageant was in abeyance. It was restored in 1945. By 1969, the event had grown significantly, with attendances reaching 500,000 and television broadcasting commencing. In 1979, the largest induction of new floats took place, with 16 joining the pageant.
In 1985, John Martin's was acquired by David Jones Limited, who continued the pageant under the John Martin's name. However, with the collapse of the Adelaide Steamship Group (of which David Jones was a significant member), and the public float of the David Jones retailing arm, in the mid-1990s the South Australian Government acquired the event. It sought sponsorship from the South Australian business community, and in 1996 sold the naming rights to the six South Australian Credit Unions: Australian Central, Savings & Loans, Community CPS, PowerState, Satisfac and the Police Credit Union. Today, the pageant is managed by Events South Australia, a division of the South Australian Tourism Commission. As a result of mergers, the current naming right sponsors are People's Choice Credit Union, Beyond Bank Australia, Credit Union SA and Police Credit Union. One Johnnie's tradition that the credit unions have been delighted to continue is that of the Pageant Queen. In 2009 a Pageant King and Princes were introduced to the Pageant and with the Pageant Queen and Princesses make up the Pageant Royal Family. The Royal Family tour the state visiting schools, libraries and children's groups as well as the Women's and Children's Hospital on Pageant Day to share the Pageant magic.
In 2008 there was a Guinness world record attempt for the longest and largest Mexican wave, but it failed.
In 2010 the spectators broke the record for the largest group of carol singers singing Christmas carols at the same time. They set a record of over 9,100 carol singers, breaking the previous record of 7,541 set in the USA.
The Pageant is broadcast officially by NWS-9, the local affiliate of the Nine Network. For many years the broadcast was carried separately by both SAS-7 and ABS-2.
Commentators and Presenters in recent years have included: