Inside an anonymous industrial complex near the airport, a 10-foot-tall Blitzen and the rest of Santa’s team of reindeer receives a final touch-up of paint.
With the days ticking down until thousands pack Vancouver sidewalks for the Roger Santa Claus Parade this Sunday in Vancouver, Lukas One owner Lukas Harder and his colleagues, including wife Kim, have been working seven days a week to put the finishing touches on as many as 10 different floats that will star in the event.
While Kim works on the reindeer’s antlers, another worker carefully sews a uniform onto a stuffed toy soldier under the watching gaze of a cartoonish toy locomotive.
Sitting next to the train, a massive aluminum shopping cart stuffed with presents and a green Christmas tree on hydraulics await their moment of glory.
A parade, it turns out, isn’t something that just happens. It is built, one Santa’s sleigh at a time.
“A lot of people don’t understand how much goes into it,” Lukas Harder said. “They show up to a parade and don’t actually think [about all the work].”
The Lukas One crew has been building floats – and a variety of other large-scale marketing displays – for more than a decade.
Two years ago, the company they worked for went belly up, and Harder decided to start up his own business and bring his co-workers with him.
The enterprise has since found its niche and flourished, employing a core group of a dozen employees plus three times that number of freelance artists and tradespeople. In addition to parade work (the company also built a sleigh for the upcoming Mission Chamber of Commerce Candlelight Parade), Lukas One also designed and built the Vancouver Christmas Market, and the company frequently does work for trade shows.
Since starting in a 2,000-square-foot workshop, they’ve increased their footprint to 20,000 square feet.
“It’s been incredible,” Harder said. “There are very few companies that do what we do.”
Harder said his kids think their parents go to work “to do crafts.”
And that’s partly true.
For a float, Lukas One will often receive commissions via the parade’s organizers. Sometimes the client will have an idea in mind and ask the company to bring it to life. Other times, it will be up to Harder and his crew to develop and pitch a concept.
Over months, the idea may be refined or tweaked, with the company starting construction on elements that have received a go-ahead while other aspects are still to be determined.
Now, with days remaining, workers are spending 10-hour days compiling and refining the floats.
The aim is to create something that elicits a payoff and reaction like the one that followed Harder’s demonstration of the Christmas tree float for his two young children.
“To have them jumping up and down in glee, you know you’ve hit it,” he said.
“That’s the judge and jury. [The kids] are the target audience.”