In keeping with the Eaton's history of philanthropy in Canada, the parade was fully funded by the company. The floats and costumes were made by them. Children applied to be in the parade, sometimes waiting as much as three years before they got their chance to participate.
In 1913, Santa's float had real reindeer. Eaton's brought them in from Labrador. After the parade, they were sent to live on an executive's land outside of Toronto.
Eaton's funded the parade until 1982, until it was no longer financially possible for the company to do so. It was saved by George Cohon and Ron Barbaro when they formed a non-profit organization to oversee running of the parade. They also got 20 corporate sponsors that first year. The organization has run the parade ever since.
You can find out more about the history of the parade here:
- http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/explore/online/eatons/eatons_parade.aspx (Archives of Ontario. There are video clips of past parades.)
- http://www.thesantaclausparade.com/about#history (Official Website of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade)
- http://www.citynews.ca/2006/11/19/the-history-of-torontos-santa-claus-parade/ (CityNews article on the history of the parade)
- http://www.torontovintagesociety.ca/2014/11/torontos-santa-claus-parade-est-1905.html (Toronto Vintage Society Website)