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Florence prepares for annual Holiday Parade on Saturday

CAROL LOLLIS
Mr. and Mrs. Clause make their way into the Florence civic center after the Saturday parade in Florence.

CAROL LOLLIS Mr. and Mrs. Clause make their way into the Florence civic center after the Saturday parade in Florence. Purchase photo reprints »

The jolly old elf himself is once again the guest of honor at the annual Florence Holiday Parade Saturday morning.

The parade kicks off from Trinity Row Park at 10 a.m., marching up Main Street and ending at the Florence Civic Center, where Santa is expected to arrive to “entertain the vision and hope of Christmas,” said Robert Ross, past president of the Florence Civic and Business Association, which sponsors the annual event.

The parade has been going on sometime between 25 years and “forever,” Ross said.

“It’s a big deal,” he said. “It’s homecoming for a lot of people in town for the holiday season.”

Parade organizer Mike Flynn said it’s simpler than that.

“It’s just great entertainment,” he said.

Flynn said in addition to a marching band and fife and drum corps from Holyoke, the Florence Community Band and the Expandable Brass Band scheduled to perform, dancers from the Northampton School of Dance and the Pioneer Valley Ballet will march in the parade, weather permitting.

Perennial favorites the Melha Shriners will also return this year.

Flynn made special mention of the efforts of Jim Brazeau, who has raised the money year after year to get the Shriners to perform.

“He’s been instrumental,” Flynn said.

Beyond the celebration and reunion, Ross said, the parade helps Florence maintain part of its small-town charm.

“We do a good job of keeping a quaint New England village atmosphere here in Florence,” Ross said.

Part of that small-town feel is a distinct lack of advertising at the parade, Flynn said.

The generosity of local businesses to support the parade notwithstanding, there are no signs, placards or company banners on display in the parade, said Flynn.

What else can people expect on Saturday morning?

“They can expect a great parade,” Flynn said.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com .

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