Even in its 82nd year, the Credit Union Christmas Pageant certainly didn’t fail to deliver! A South Australian institution, the pageant is regarded as one of the world’s greatest pageants, and it’s no surprise. With more than 3,900 people working on the pageant, it draws millions of viewers each year from around the world.

Our CEO Belinda Jennings and Deputy Editor Tania Pradun were invited behind the scenes to share with our readers an incredible experience full of magical stories, photos, videos and more as we got up close in the heart of the action with our friends from People’s Choice Credit Union. It was an an opportunity of a lifetime and something we’ll remember for a long time to come.

Since we were kids, we’ve lined the streets in eager anticipation for what has become an annual highlight on any child’s calendar. It heralds the beginning of the Christmas season and attracts millions of viewers each year.  More often than not, unless you’re fortunate enough to be involved in the pageant, either organising or participating, the only perspective you’ll see is that from the parade that traverses the 3.3km route along the streets of Adelaide.

This year, in conjunction with People’s Choice Credit Union, we headed behind the scenes to capture the excitement, energy and the mammoth scale that goes on behind the scenes to bring you this world famous event each year.

Starting on South Terrace, we met with Pageant Co-Ordinator Kim Burls from People’s Choice Credit Union who took us to the huge outdoor tented area set up by Allianz Insurance to feed hearty breakfasts to the the 1800 pageant volunteers and performers.

  • The first Pageant in 1933 had eight floats and four bands. The 2014 Credit Union Christmas Pageant will have 147 moving sets including 250 clown 63 floats and 17 bands plus 9 walking sets, ten dance groups, one DJ and three choirs.
  • The route is 3.3 kilometres long. When Father Christmas enters King William Street from South Terrace, the first set is well past the Magic Cave at David Jones on North Terrace.

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  • In 2013 more than 3900 people worked on the Pageant. This included over 2500 volunteers working hard to ensure that everyone had a fun and happy day.
  • More than 1000 people who work at or are associated with People’s Choice Credit Union, Beyond Bank Australia, Police Credit Union and Credit Union SA help make the Pageant what it is, taking on roles such as clowns and fairies and also assisting behind the scenes. Nearly every character in the Pageant – apart from Father Christmas – works at or is a special friend of these four leading South Australian credit unions.

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  • Costume fittings are held over an eight-week period. Costumes are transported to credit union offices during this period. On fitting days, wardrobe staff fit one costume every five minutes.
  • It takes 15 trucks to transport costumes, shapes, heads, bikes and props to Pulteney Grammar School, the starting point, the day before the Pageant.
  • More than 50 litres of washing liquid, 18 cans of starch, six bottles of bleach and 400 litres of distilled water are used to clean the costumes each year.
  • From the week after the Pageant until Christmas Eve, well over 3000 costume pieces are washed, ironed and placed in plastic bags for storage ready for the next year.
  • More than 120 talented makeup artists are set to apply make-up to more than 1000 characters between 6.30am and 9am on Pageant day.
  • It takes more than 240 boxes of tissues and 70 jars of make-up remover to remove characters’ make-up each year.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Each of the 250+ clowns are required to undergo a strict quality control test, if their makeup doesn’t meet the mark, they’re back to be retouched before being set free on waiting crowds to spread their cheer.

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  • The Credit Union Christmas Pageant Royal Family is an annual tradition, having existed for over 70 years. The process of selecting a Pageant Queen began in 1939 to help with wartime fundraising.
  • Today, the Pageant Queen and King are selected from a group of nominated Princesses and Princes from the four sponsoring credit unions and together they uphold the value of giving back to the community.
  • During their reign, the Pageant Royal Family’s duties include attending the official Credit Union Christmas Pageant launch in October, credit union functions and going on regional tours visiting schools, special needs’ centres and libraries. They also make metropolitan visits to schools, special needs centres and many community functions as well as the Women’s and Children’s Hospital immediately after the pageant.
  • The 2014 Credit Union Christmas Pageant Queen and King were crowned on Wednesday 16 July 2014 at Mamma Carmela’s Winter Wonderland at Glenelg.

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One of the most significant things we took away from our behind-the-scenes pageant experience was the enormity of the event. This is one well-oiled machine. THOUSANDS of people of all ages, cultures, shapes and sizes were involved over several different sites.

When we arrived at 6.20am South Terrace and the South Parklands were already buzzing with colour, enthusiasm and sizzling bacon. Everyone knew where they needed to be and at what time. During our tour we came across countless make-up stations, quality check-points and coloured zones for the participants to be transformed into loveable pageant characters.

As the sun rose higher in the sky and the main breakfast arena filled with clowns and aliens and princesses and monsters and elves, the excitement was palpable. Even seasoned pageant officials were grinning from ear to ear as they greeted each other and welcomed us to the pageant family.

But by far, the biggest surprise for us was that even after being explained all the logistic and seeing all the cogs in motion, it was still magnificent. As we rushed from the beginning of the parade back through the waiting floats to meet the big man in red the happiness was contagious and when it was our turn to have a photo with Father Christmas we were both surprised to have butterflies in our stomachs. That’s what the Christmas Pageant does for people. It keeps the wonder of Christmas alive in our hearts, no matter what our age, and we are incredibly lucky to have such an extraordinary, free and accessible event in our city.

The magic of Christmas starts here in the collective heart of these people.

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