top of page

Auckland Farmers Santa Parade 2023: Float maker Peter Taylor looks back on 50 years

Natasha Hill

The man behind Auckland Farmers Santa Parade’s dazzling high-tech floats says they are a far cry from when he first started making them with only paper and glue.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

The parade will return to the streets for its 90th year with a new Elf on the Shelf-inspired float added to the lineup.

Float maker Peter Taylor says times have changed and now copyright issues are considerations compared with 50 years ago.

The 1968 Auckland Farmers Santa Parade celebrates its 57th year. Supplied / Farmers Trading Company

Taylor says his new float, Elf on the Shelf, had its name changed to Alf on the Shelf to get around copyright issues.

“The title is slightly changed … It’s a different elf and that’s just an example of trying to get around copyrights.

“Often these people want lots of money just to have their rights to put in the parade.”

Taylor first started building floats in 1973 with papier mache, wire netting and wooden frames.

Back then he says they had to come up with creative ways to build them by using water-based paints and sticking together cardboard.

“It’s just things that you pick up … sometimes other people’s rubbish is your treasure, what you could make something out of.”

Santa Parade, 1940. Photo / Farmers Trading Company

However, the floats never lasted long and the materials they used back then wouldn’t withstand rain.

“The float, if they had been wire netting and they had just fallen apart, you would have seen just a wire netting skeleton going down the road.”

The change in float ideas has hugely impacted the parade.

In the past all the floats were based on fairy tales and nursery rhymes and books like Gulliver’s Travels, the Fairy Queen and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Taylor said.

As years went by, the floats became more commercialised and reflect what is currently popular.

He says the parade relies heavily on sponsorships and volunteer work but in the past, that wasn’t the case.

“It got more into what was more topical with kids, like Barbie dolls, and of course, you couldn’t use all of those, you had to get rights to use them.”

Not only have floats changed over the years but so have other famous Christmas displays.

Taylor recalls the famous Farmers Santa store display that was taken down in 2019 because of the expensive upkeep.

“Yeah, that’s quite sad. I remember as a young fellow I used to help paint it.”

He says it was “a fantastic product from a bygone era” and “a bit of history that went”.

Crowds gather on Queen St to watch the 74th annual Farmers Santa Parade. Photo / Richard Robinson

Hero Image: Float maker Peter Taylor has a new exciting addition to this year's parade. Photo / Richard Robinson

bottom of page