Santa Claus and candy in the streets: Florence Holiday Parade turns 30

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  • Shaun McQueary, right, and his daughter, Cayden, 2, perched on his shoulders, wave to Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus riding aboard the Look Park float in the 30th annual Florence Holiday Parade on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. The McQuearys, of central New York, were in town to visit family with Cayden’s mother, Carol McQueary, a native of Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Regis Chandler, left, and her daughter, Clara, 16 months, of Hatfield, and Chandler’s sister, Diedre Murphy of Florence, watch the 30th annual Florence Holiday Parade from Main Street on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Maddie Prairie, right, 8, and brother Teddy, 6, of Florence greet Santa and Mrs. Claus as they arrive at the Florence Civic Center at the end of the 30th annual Florence Holiday Parade on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Santa and Mrs. Claus ride the Look Park float in the 30th annual Florence Holiday Parade on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Santa Claus greets Noam Navarro-Tremblay, 4, and his father, Dominique Tremblay of Northampton in the Florence Civic Center following the 30th annual Florence Holiday Parade on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Beckham Tavares, 3, of Florence meets with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Florence Civic Center following the 30th annual Florence Holiday Parade on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Beckham Tavares, 3, of Florence tries to get a sneak peek of Santa Claus while waiting outside of the Florence Civic Center to see Mr. and Mrs. Claus after the Holiday Parade on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pipe Major Roger Bernier of the Holyoke Caledonian Pipe Band warms up before the start of the 30th annual Florence Holiday Parade on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dimples the clown, with the Melha Shriners of Springfield, hands a “30th Annual Florence Holiday Parade” button to Cora Bain-Purdy, 5, of Northampton before the parade steps off from Trinity Row Park on Saturday morning, Nov. 30, 2019. Bain-Purdy is a member of the Big Little Chorus contingent that marched and sang in the parade. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Florence VFW Post 8006 color guard’s Tom Pease, left, and Francis Robles march in the 30th annual Florence Holiday Parade on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lauren Fleit, left, and most of her 19 singers in the Big Little Chorus gather for a picture in Trinity Row Park before their inaugural march in the Florence Holiday Parade on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Florence VFW Post 8006 color guard’s Tom Pease, left, and Francis Robles march in the 30th annual Florence Holiday Parade on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 11/30/2019 2:53:16 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Santa Claus waved to children from his sleigh. Elves led reindeer adorned with bells down Main Street. A wind ensemble played “Jingle Bells” on their float. The only thing missing from the 30th annual Florence Holiday Parade: snow. But that was in the forecast for Sunday.

Two veterans carrying flags led the parade on Saturday morning from Trinity Row Park, followed by a cluster of bagpipers. Behind them, a festive float carrying the Florence Community Band played holiday tunes. Melha Shriners members, many dressed as clowns, were nearby, zigzagging in go-karts, motorbikes and mini monster trucks.

Mayor David Narkewicz also walked and waved in the parade, hosted by the Florence Civic & Business Association.

Rounding out the floats was Santa on his sleigh, accompanied by Mrs. Claus, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and a fellow reindeer. As the Clauses waved merrily to dozens of onlookers huddled on the sidewalks, their posse tossed candy into the streets — the children screamed and scrambled, collecting the sweets as fast as possible.

When Frosty isn’t on the float, she’s running the Miss Florence Diner. It’s Georgianna Brunton’s second year dressing as Frosty in the parade, a tradition she began when she bought the restaurant a year and a half ago.

“I just think it’s a great thing for the community and to be involved,” Brunton said while holding the Frosty head before the parade. When asked if she plans on participating in the parade for years to come, Brunton said, “Of course, it’s just a great thing to do.”

The woman behind Rudolph, unlike Brunton, was surprised when she learned she’d be dressing up for the parade — Jen Aguiar is the manager of Miss Florence. Her boss informed her only half an hour before the parade that she’d be riding on Santa’s sleigh.

Despite the short notice, Aguiar got into the holiday spirit when children recognized her as the famous reindeer before the parade even started.

“The kids are already screaming and coming to give us hugs, so that was a nice surprise,” she said.

Other spectacles included a lion, walking on its hind legs, from the Northampton Lion’s Club, mariners equipped with swords from Mehla Shriners and a man cruising in a mini Peter Pan bus. One man donning an oversized Christmas-themed leprechaun hat handed out candy while on an electric scooter. Freckled Fox cafe warmed the crowd with a stand outside their shop, selling hot chocolate, coffee and baked goods.

As the floats passed, families gathered on the corner of North Main and North Maple Streets, where the parade circled the block twice before stopping at the Florence Civic Center. At the Civic Center, parents lined up with their children for a chance to meet Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, who were helping to accept presents for the Jack Dunphy Toy Drive sponsored by the Northampton St. Patrick’s Association.

Among those waiting in the cold were the Prairies, a foreign service family originally from western Massachusetts. This is their first Christmas back in the Pioneer Valley in six years — they previously lived in Djibouti and the Philippines.

The family of five rode in the Cloverdale Cooperative Preschool float — Delia, the youngest child, is a student there. According to her older sister, Maddie, the funnest part of the parade was “throwing candy at people from the float” — her parents Justin and Gina laughed. Their son, Teddy, was also in attendance, patiently waiting with his family.

As the sun warmed the chilly morning, one of Santa’s helpers emerged from the front door of the Civic Center, announcing that Santa would be ready soon, along with hot chocolate, apple cider and “lots of cookies.”

“Merry Christmas!” he shouted.

In unison, the children in the crowd roared back, “Merry Christmas!”




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