Manchester on the march
The annual event drew thousands - kids, adults and even dogs - downtown.
Nine-year-old Raymond Custodio of Manchester was wearing a red Santa hat and a big smile as he waited for the 2011 Granite State Credit Union Spirit of New Hampshire Christmas Parade to begin, along with his little sisters Kaitlyn, 5, and baby Carly, just 2 months old.
Raymond said he loves everything about parades: 'all the parade floats, the lights, everything.'
'There's no such thing as too much parade,' said the fourth-grader. 'You can't get enough of it.'
His sister Kaitlyn was waiting for one guy in particular. No, not the big guy in the red suit; 'Max from the Monarchs,' she said shyly. The family was heading to that night's hockey game after the parade ended.
Jason and Christina Emery of Hooksett brought their 16-month-old son Ivan for his first-ever parade. 'I thought he might like it with the lights,' his dad said.
The traditional start of the parade featured Manchester firefighters using boots to collect donations for the Salvation Army's Santa Fund, which benefits needy families.
► Click here for photos from Saturday's race, as well as the Manchester Christmas parade.
► 1,000 Santas set pace for Christmas festivities
Gov. John Lynch, Mayor Ted Gatsas and the aldermen marched. So did baton twirlers from AmeriKids, two Manchester police horses, and volunteers from Manchester Animal Shelter and their pets, many of which were adopted through the shelter.
Proudly displaying a sign for 'Best Float,' members of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Hooksett portrayed a nativity scene, complete with the three magi bearing gifts. And folks from the Living Hope Church played live Christmas music on a float reading ' 'Tis the season to remember the reason for the season.'
The New Horizons food pantry's float featured a gingerbread house, a reminder of those who lack shelter and food this winter.
The parade was an interactive affair. Little kids waved to the passing firefighters, police officers, float participants, marching band members, superheroes and pageant queens.
When a float recreating a scene from the classic movie 'A Christmas Story' rolled by, someone called out obligingly, 'You'll shoot your eye out!'
A group of Mitt Romney supporters marched ahead of a float featuring the state seal, complete with wooden ship. 'Go Mitt,' a woman called to them, and was promptly rewarded with some campaign literature.
A short time later, a group of Ron Paul supporters carrying blimp-shaped balloons and a sign reading 'Freedom' marched by. 'Go Ron Paul!' the same woman called out, earning her more campaign literature.
Naomi Preble recently moved back to Manchester and was taking in the parade for old times' sake. Preble, who graduated with the Class of 1967 at West High School, was thinking of her girlhood days when she marched down Elm Street with the Muchachos Drum and Bugle Corps. She carried the colors and her brothers played horns. 'I'm surprised they're still doing it,' she said.
Her brother, Wayne Marston, used to come with his kids; this year he brought his grandkids, Noah and Gavin Marston. 'I like to see the kids' faces when they see things,' he said.
Preble's partner, Richard Cusick, was impressed that his adopted city shuts down its main downtown street for a Christmas parade. 'I'm a Boston guy. We don't shut down the streets for nothin',' he said.
'It means that the people that run the city think about the people that live there. I think it's nice,' he said.
Lory Donovan of Nashua brought her 2-year-old daughter MacKenzie to her first-ever parade. 'We're going to see Santa and all the lights,' she said. 'It's a chance to be out with your neighbors, your friends, to see people you haven't seen in a while. Do something festive. It's free, which is an added bonus, and it's family oriented.'
Donovan said such events mean even more in tough times. 'It keeps your morale up,' she said. 'Keeps you focused on what's really important.'
There was one injury reported. Before the parade began, according to Manchester police, a woman rider fell off a horse and suffered a possible broken collarbone.