In 1933, when Australia was recovering from the Great Depression, one man with the support from his family business took it upon himself to create a wonderful event, to spread Christmas cheer and magic and lift community spirits following the misery of the depression.
This man was Sir Edward Hayward, or as he was affectionately known,Mr Bill. Sir Edward was an owner of the original John Martins Department store, and Chairman of the John Martins Board.
With the blow from Sir Edward's whistle, the first Pageant began at 11am on Saturday 18 November 1933. There were just eight floats, and four bands, but to the people of South Australia, this was a wonderful and memorable occasion that lifted their spirits, and brought them much needed Christmas cheer.
The first Pageant ran for approximately 60 minutes, and attracted 200, 000 spectators. It was called the 'Children's Christmas Pageant 1933'. All of the Pageant characters were staff from the John Martins store, and the procession ran from Angas Street to John Martins Rundle Street. Some of the earliest Pageant costumes were made from crepe paper. Sir Edward was so delighted by the incredible success of the first Pageant, he and his team of organisers began to plan for the next one.
Father Christmas appeared in the first Christmas Pageant, and since then has been escorted in grand style by the Pageant procession to the Magic Cave, an enchanting Christmas wonderland loved by both adults and children alike.
During the unfortunate events of World War II in 1941, the joyous tradition of this annual event was interrupted and the floats were put under wraps. When the war ended, organisers worked quickly to stage the event again, eager to bring Christmas cheer and magic back to the community. In November 1945, the Pageant was resurrected and the Victory Pageant served its purpose to uplift community spirits, and bring back smiles to the faces of South Australians.
In 1983, just weeks before the Pageant's 50th year, the Golden Pageant, its creator Sir Edward Hayward passed away. Sir Edward lived to see the Pageant grow considerably since he first conceived the event, witnessing crowds, including a reported 500 000 spectators in 1969.
The State Bank of South Australia entered into partnership with John Martins to present the Pageant in 1984.
When the Pageant celebrated its 60-years, the procession featured some 72 sets, with 1600 people taking part.
By 1995 David Jones had taken over ownership of John Martins and the Pageant. In this year David Jones sold the Pageant to the State Government of South Australia. The Pageant is now managed, produced and directed on behalf of the State Government by Events South Australia, the major events division of the South Australian Tourism Commission.
The first Credit Union Christmas Pageant was held in 1996 in its 64th year.
The partnership with the credit unions; Savings & Loans, Australian Central, Community CPS Australia, Credit Union SA and Police Credit Union continues to this day. Additional assistance is received from David Jones, Adelaide City Council, media partners and the many volunteers involved including the public, SA Police, State Emergency Services, Metropolitan Fire Services, SA Ambulance and St Johns Ambulance.