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November 29. 2012 6:34PM

Saturday Christmas festivities set for Elm Street

MANCHESTER - Elm Street will get a holiday dose of shoe leather on Saturday afternoon, when the downtown hosts both a road race and the Spirit of New Hampshire Christmas parade.

The second annual Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center Santa Shuffle hits the city's main drag at 3 p.m. Saturday in a route that goes north along Elm Street, loops around West Clark Street and then returns south on Elm Street. Organizers expect that between 3,000 and 4,000 runners will participate, and they have acquired 2,500 Santa suits that are light and flexible enough for a runner's stride.

"When you look down Elm St. and it's a sea of red Santa suits, the sight is just incredible. Of all the events we put on, this one, to me, is probably the most special," said John Mortimer of Millennium Running.

About the time straggling Santas return to Veterans Park - 4 p.m. - the Granite State Credit Union Spirit of New Hampshire Christmas parade is expected to begin.

Manchester police said Elm Street will be closed starting at 3 p.m. until the parade concludes. Cross street traffic will be prohibited at Elm. Eastbound traffic on both the Bridge Street and Amoskeag bridges will be diverted.

The parade will begin in the area of Brady Sullivan tower at Elm and Salmon streets and move south.

Eighty-eight organizations are participating, up from 73 last year, said Sara Beaudry, marketing director of Intown Manchester, which coordinates the parade.

Participants include the New England Bretheren of Pirates, The Friends of Stark Park, Habitat for Humanity, winners of local Miss New Hampshire qualifying pageants, the Manchester High School-Central marching band and the Muchachos marching band, the New Hampshire Roller Derby Team and Spectrum Marketing.

Just two days ago a few organizations contacted Intown and were squeezed in, Beaudry said.

"We had a deadline, but we want to make this as easy for people to join as they can," she said.

One latecomer is Patriot Heating and Cooling, a four-person business located in Candia. Co-owner Colleen Gosselin said the company has several clients downtown, so she plans to decorate the company van today and put it in the parade.

"We're probably going to be in our service van with Santa Claus hats and, if it's allowed, throw candy out the window," she said.

Beaudry estimated that it will take about an hour for the parade to pass a single point. She expects it will conclude shortly after 6 p.m.

Runners can register for the Santa Shuffle Friday at the Shaskeen Irish Pub from 4 to 7 p.m. Race day registration is a Veteran's Park starting at 1 p.m. Registration fees are $30 for adults 21 and over, $25 for runners 12 to 20 years of age and free for runners under 12.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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