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Florence Holiday Parade marks the start of the season

  • Kailey Simmons, left, and Ivy Eldridge, both 12 and of Southampton, hand out candy while marching Nov. 25, 2017, during the 28th annual Holiday Parade in Florence. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Michael Avery of Chicopee, left, and Chris Parker of Agawam, both representing the Melha Shriners oriental band based in Springfield, play music while marching Nov. 25, 2017, during the 28th annual Holiday Parade in Florence. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Kyle Butler of Northampton and his son Rhys, 2, cheer on the floats. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Ed Batchelder of Southampton as “Bogey” the clown rouses holiday spirit along the parade route. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A holiday float progresses down the street Nov. 25, 2017, during the 28th annual Holiday Parade in Florence. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Jacob St. Germain, 12, of Huntington, drives a small tractor pulling a cart carrying his sister Farrah St. Germain, 5, back left, and Nora Shirley, 6, of Huntington, as part of the Hilltown Misfits 4H Club contingent marching Nov. 25, 2017, during the 28th annual Holiday Parade in Florence. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Dressed in green, the Hilltown Misfits 4-H Club takes part in the 28th annual Holiday Parade in Florence. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Jess Brandt-Eisner of Bedford, who grew up in Florence, left, looks on as her son Sam Eisner, 6, prepares to throw a basketball into a moving hoop float Nov. 25, 2017, during the 28th annual Holiday Parade in Florence. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Bagpipers march Saturday in the 28th annual Holiday Parade in Florence. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY



@RebeccaMMullen
Sunday, November 26, 2017

FLORENCE — All that was missing was the partridge in a pear tree.

A fleet of hot rods, three friendly llamas, a bagpipe troupe and Santa Claus himself were among the highlights of the 28th annual Florence Holiday Parade on Saturday.

The parade ran the length of Main Street through downtown from Trinity Row Park to the Florence Civic Center. About 200 locals marched and close to a thousand more lined the route to catch a glimpse of the eclectic floats — and to nab some candy.

Belinda, Moxie and Rosalee were the parade’s resident llamas from Laurel Ledge Farm in Florence.

“Kids especially like to wave at llamas, but everybody loves llamas,” said Jasmine Myers, the llamas’ owner.

Sponsored by the Florence Civic and Business Association, the parade attracted local officials and community organizations from throughout the valley.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, City Councilors Marianne LaBarge and Bill Dwight, City Clerk Pam Powers and state Senate President Stan Rosenberg marched in the parade.

Shriners rode go-karts, played musettes and donned clown costumes to raise awareness of their hospitals. Young representatives from the “Hilltown Misfits,” a local 4-H chapter, carried American flags and wore matching forest green sweatshirts. A volunteer wearing a lion onesie carried the banner for the local Lion’s Club.

Diane Johnson of Florence brought her Great Dane, Melanie, to the parade. The two of them marched with the Veterans of Foreign Wars contingent.

After a sore on Melanie’s foot kept her out of action last year, the 7-year-ld gentle giant returned ready to take on the parade. She seemed to love the attention and patting from passersby who marveled at her large size.

“She wanted to stop and let everyone pet her,” Johnson said. “You gotta plan on being out for a while when you walk a Great Dane.”

A large inflated gorilla tied to the top of a truck served as the mascot for the League Legends contingent.

Banner-holder Nicole Sawula said that the League Legends nonprofit was founded after two of her Northampton High School classmates died as teenagers. Eleven years later, the league hosts a mid-summer basketball tournament and raises money for college scholarships.

“The community gives a lot to us so we like to give back to the community,” Sawula said.

To honor the boys’ passion for basketball, the float featured six hoops. Volunteers tossed balls to spectators, urging them to take a shot at the baskets.

Behind the giant ape, members of the Northampton Saint Patrick’s Association lined up in matching white woolen Irish sweaters. A banner advertised the association’s December toy drive named for longtime member Jack Dunphy.

President Meggan Gliboy said that she was excited to participate in the parade.

“Just to get everyone in the Christmas spirit,” she said.

Along the parade route, Valley residents young and old did just that.

Tamara Bowman of Florence dressed up as a reindeer. For Bowman and her daughter, the parade was an opportunity to get their first glimpse of Santa.

“He offered me a job in his workshop,” Bowman said after the toymaker saw her in her costume.

After the parade, Santa held court in the Florence Civic Center. A line of eager children and families stretched far out the door as folks waited for a chance to sit and talk with Mr. Claus.

Valley transplant Christine Baker waited in line with her daughter Qora, age 3. She said the parade is one of the things that gives Florence its unique small-town vibe. “I grew up in a series of faceless suburbs,” Bowman said. “The parade is kind of charming.”