The Adelaide Christmas Pageant is a parade held annually in the South Australian capital of Adelaide. Established in 1933, the event is staged annually on the second Saturday of November, typically 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 is officially recognised as a "heritage icon" by the National Trust of Australia, and a "state institution" by the Government of South Australia.
The pageant has been owned by the South Australian Government since 1996, and National Pharmacies has been the naming rights sponsor since 2019. 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.
The pageant route commences on King William Street at South Terrace and runs through the city to terminate at Adelaide Town Hall. Before 2019, the pageant traditionally ended on North Terrace outside the John Martin's (later David Jones building) wherefrom Father Christmas would proceed inside to the Magic Cave.
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 until 2018 were 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 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.
In 2019, National Pharmacies acquired the naming rights sponsorship of the event. The pageant was additionally rerouted; no longer terminating at its traditional ending at the David Jones (previously John Martin's) building on North Terrace, it instead follows an adjusted route that finishes at Adelaide Town Hall.
Previous commentators have included; Jane Reilly, Ron Sullivan, Patsy Biscoe, Anne Haddy (guest), Brenton Whittle, Robin Roendfeldt, Joanna Moore, Kevin Crease, Lynn Weston, Franci Chammings, Cheryl Mills, Sue Baron, Lionel Williams. Alec Macaskil, Ric Marshall, Pam Tamblyn, John Bannon (guest), Grant Piro, Benita Collins, Tania Nugent, Simon Burke, Dale Sinclair, Elizabeth Doyle, Tony Brooks, Malcolm Harslett, Sandy Roberts, Judith Barr and Richard Coombe.
Commentators and Presenters in recent years have includes:
- 2005: Rob Kelvin and Georgina McGuinness, with Mark Bickley and Lisa McAskill.
- 2006: Rob Kelvin and Georgina McGuinness, with Mark Bickley and Lisa McAskill.
- 2007: Georgina McGuinness and Kym Dillon, with Mark Bickley and Lisa McAskill.
- 2008: Kelly Nestor and Brenton Ragless, with Georgina McGuinness, Mark Bickley and Kate Collins.
- 2009: Brenton Ragless and Kate Collins, with Kelly Nestor and Jason 'Snowy' Carter.
- 2015: Brenton Ragless and Kate Collins with Virginia Langeberg (Virginia's last time). This was the first time the pageant was broadcast interstate to Perth, Melbourne and Sydney on GEM
- "South Australians line the streets for 2018 Adelaide Credit Union Christmas Pageant". News.com.au. Sunday Mail. 10 November 2018. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
- "BankSA Heritage Items List". National Trust of South Australia. 20 October 2006. Archived from the original on 25 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-20.
- Douglass, Robyn (9 October 2018). "National Pharmacies to sponsor Adelaide's Christmas Pageant from 2019". News.com.au. The Advertiser. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
- "Adelaide Christmas Pageant's new route to end at town hall instead of David Jones' Magic Cave". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 17 August 2019. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
- Sly, David (29 October 2004). "Spirit of Johnnies lives on". The Adelaide Review. Archived from the original on 1 November 2008. Retrieved 2006-10-16.
- "Adelaide's First Pageant". Credit Union Christmas Pageant. 20 October 2006. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 20 October 2006.
- "Credit Union Pageant Tradition". Credit Union Christmas Pageant. 20 October 2006. Archived from the original on 6 March 2007. Retrieved 2006-10-20.
- Christmas Pageant[permanent dead link], Savings & Loans Credit Union
- Credit Union Christmas Pageant Archived 17 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Community CPS Credit Union
- Christmas Pageant competition[permanent dead link], PowerState Credit Union
- About the Christmas Pageant, Satisfac Credit Union
- The people behind the Credit Union Christmas Pageant Archived 11 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine, cupageant.com.au
- "Pageant Partners". Credit Union Christmas Pageant. Archived from the original on 11 August 2013.
- Credit Union Christmas Pageant breaks into world-record books, www.adelaidenow.com.au