Santa's here: Cheering crowd watches Haverhill Santa Parade

Santa Claus waves to the crowd in the 54th annual VFW Santa Parade in downtown Haverhill in 2018.

HAVERHILL — Santa will be coming to town after all as part of this year’s VFW Santa Parade, which will be smaller in scope than in past years but is still expected to be a thrilling spectacle to kick off the holiday season.

The parade committee voted on Monday to hold the 57th annual parade on Sunday, Nov. 21. The affair will kick off at 1 p.m. in front of the Hunking School on South Main Street in Bradford, with the theme “Santa Claus IS Coming to Town.”

The parade will travel along South Main Street, past the Bradford Common and over the Basiliere Bridge before turning left onto Merrimack Street, then right onto Emerson Street, where it will disband at the intersection of Ginty Boulevard.

The annual event draws anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 people along its route and is the longest-running Santa Parade north of Boston. It is usually held the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

The parade had to be canceled last year for the first time in its 55-year history due to COVID-19 restrictions and was replaced by Santa riding a predetermined route on a fire truck and making stops to gather food for the Betsy Conte Food Drive and toys for Ozzie’s Kids.

“This year’s parade will be as close to a full-blown parade as we can make and will feature as many marching bands, floats and walking groups as we can get, depending on how they are impacted by the ongoing pandemic,” said Dan Plourde Sr., chairman of the VFW Santa Parade Committee.

With the exception of the Clydesdales, which are not performing this year, many past participants have indicated they will be taking part in Haverhill’s parade, including Londonderry High School’s marching band, which along with other planned performers could cancel at a moment’s notice.

The event costs about $45,000 to put on each year, with most of the money coming from donations and fundraisers as well as from funds collected during the parade itself.

The annual Betsy Conte Food Drive will be held during this year’s parade as well, along with a collection of toys for Ozzie’s Kids.

To donate to this year’s Santa Parade, visit online at You can also send a check to VFW Santa Parade, PO Box 5345, Bradford, MA 01835.

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