By Paul Tennant firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — One knows that Christmas is right around the corner when the Santa Parade marches through downtown North Andover.
Mr. Claus himself will occupy his usual place of honor, riding a North Andover fire engine at the end of what promises to be a long and lively procession of marchers and floats.
This year’s parade will take place Nov. 24, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The parade will start at noon, but participants need to assemble at 11 a.m. at North Andover Middle School, according to Jeffrey Coco, who along with Joan Heafey heads the Festival Committee that organizes this event.
Police Sgt. E.J. Foulds, a member of the Festival Committee, said he expects 10 floats to join the promenade — and he’s looking for more. Any group or organization that wishes to enter a float is asked to email Foulds at: email@example.com.
A blue ribbon will be given to the float that is judged to be the best. A red ribbon will be awarded to the second-place float while a yellow ribbon will go to the third-place entrant.
Every float that enters the Santa Parade can count on at least a white ribbon, Foulds said. Seven bands have committed to marching, he said, including the North Andover and Methuen high school bands, the Boston Windjammers, Clan MacPherson and the Stewart Highlanders.
Speaking of Stewarts, the grand marshall of this year’s parade will be veteran Selectman Donald Stewart, who has participated in many of the previous parades. He’s expected to be riding in the back of a convertible, this time at the front of the formation.
“It’s an honor to be the grand marshall,” said Stewart, who portrayed Santa Claus in the parade for 23 years before deciding to let someone else be a jolly St. Nick. The Festival Committee voted unanimously to select Stewart as grand marshall.
This year’s column will follow the usual route, Coco said. From the middle school, it will head down Main Street, proceed along Elm and Water streets, return to Main Street and finish at Sutton Street.
The reviewing stand will be in front of Town Hall.
The annual Santa Parade has been an annual tradition in North Andover for at least 50 years, according to both Coco and Heafey.