By Mike LaBella firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — HAVERHILL — Santa Claus is coming to town and, although his route is under construction, it should be smooth sailing when he arrives Sunday.
The annual VFW Santa Parade — the largest parade north of Boston — will step off at 1 p.m. in front of the Bradford Fire Station. State transportation officials are monitoring the heavy road construction along Route 125 and promised a safe route for all who participate and attend.
The parade continues along South Main Street, crosses the Basiliere Bridge, passes by the Public Library and City Hall, then pauses in front of the judges stand in Monument Square. The parade ends at VFW Lorraine Post 29 on Kenoza Avenue. Rain date is Nov. 24.
The parade will have four divisions featuring: 17 marching bands; 32 floats; race cars and antique, specialty and novelty cars; fire trucks and other emergency vehicles; and dozens of colorful costumed characters and clowns.
The parade will also feature the 14th annual Betsy Conte Food Drive, an event that helps restock the shelves of local food pantries and community meal programs.
“This year’s parade will be extra special and historical as it will be the first time we’ve ever had inflatable costume characters in the parade lineup,” said Parade Committee Vice Chairman Thomas Sullivan.
This year’s parade theme is “I’ll be Home for Christmas” and is dedicated to area veterans who have returned from having served overseas in recent wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Vietnam, Korea, and World Wars I and II. Haverhill residents Donald and Michael Jarvis, a father and son who both served overseas and suffered brain disorders as a result of their military service, will be honored during the parade.
New to the lineup are the North Andover High School and Georgetown High School marching bands. Returning are the Salem High School and Londonderry High School marching bands. Bagpipe lovers can look forward to the return of the Clan MacPherson Pipes & Drums, the Springfield Kiltie Band and the Stuart Highlanders.
The Middlesex County Volunteers Fife & Drums are in the lineup, along with the Middlesex County 4H Fife & Drum Corps, the New Liberty Jazz Band, Immaculate Heart of Mary Marching Band, the Methuen High School, Beverly High School and Pentucket Regional High School marching bands, the Jambalaya Band, and the Haverhill High School & Middle School Band.
The Sons of Italy Drum & Bugle Corps will herald the arrival of Santa, who will travel the parade route in a newly remodeled Santa float sponsored by Haverhill Bank. A favorite each year, the Hallamore Clydesdales & Hitch are back.
Floats include an entry by Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, along with entries by the Ice Skating Academy, DeAngelis School of Music, Scovotti’s Cooking & Confections, STARS Special Olympics, Haverhill Historical Society, Haverhill High School, Pentucket Bank, and the LL Bean Bootmobile.
The cost of this year’s publicly supported event is $32,000. Organizers said they have raised about $22,000 so far. A Family Boosters Club Raffle Ticket fundraiser and a Business Boosters Club are underway and a collection drive will be taken during the parade. Donations can be sent to the VFW Santa Parade, 64 Kenoza Ave., Haverhill, MA 01830. More information is available by calling 978-373-3777.