By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — It’s probably the last thing on our minds as we bake in the sweltering heat of July.
The Christmas season, Santa and his annual parade in late November.
But organizers of the city’s annual VFW Santa Parade are asking the public to begin thinking now of float ideas for the parade.
The organizers have released the theme of this year’s parade, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.’’ Even though the event is four months away, they are urging participants to create floats that will fit this year’s theme — without actually having Santa on their floats.
“There is only one Santa Claus, and he appears at the very end of the parade,” said parade chairman Roland Plourde, talking about the tradition that St. Nick shows up on the last float in the event. “So put on your thinking caps over the summer and come up with floats that reflect the theme, but without Santa riding on your floats.”
All floats entered in this year’s 49th annual VFW Santa Parade, scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 24 are asked to reflect this year’s parade theme. Plourde said it will require float organizers to get creative because “nobody is ever allowed to put their own Santa Claus on their float.”
City Councilor Thomas Sullivan, parade vice chairman, said there have not been any past incidents of duplicate Santas on floats, although there have been several requests.
“We’re asking people to think outside the box and figure out a way to depict floats that show preparations for Santa’s arrival,” Sullivan said. “Maybe it’s reindeer getting ready to fly, or Mrs. Claus making Christmas dinner for when Santa returns, or a family decorating their tree and getting the children ready for bed as they eagerly await Santa’s arrival.”
Organizers are also asking for help in paying for this year’s parade, which is paid for by donations from the community.
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. 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.
The parade will also feature the 15th annual Betsy Conte Food Drive, an event that helps restock the shelves of local food pantries and community meal programs.
It costs a lot to put on the parade each year and organizers must raise all of the money. Sullivan said the parade committee is low on start-up funds this year because there was no money left over from last year’s parade.
“We didn’t have the reserves we normally start out with,” Sullivan said. “Between now and Nov. 24, we need to raise $45,000 in order to pay for this year’s event. Otherwise we will be forced to cut back on the total number of marching bands and special attractions.
“People have to remember that the marching bands, other than Haverhill High School’s band, which is in a rebuilding mode, do not march for free,” Sullivan said.
Donations can be sent to the VFW Santa Parade, 64 Kenoza Ave., Haverhill, MA 01830.
The parade committee is also seeking new members to help with organizing the parade. Anyone interested in joining the parade committee is asked to contact Roland Plourde at 978-373-3777. The Santa Parade is sponsored by Lorraine Post 29 VFW and is traditionally held on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.