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December 02. 2012 9:16PM

Merrimack rings in the season with annual parade

MERRIMACK - Decked out in Santa hats and bundled in blankets, hundreds of people lined the streets Sunday to get a glimpse of Santa and Mrs. Claus during the town's annual holiday parade.

The celebrity couple sat atop an antique sleigh and excitedly waved to fans as they traveled along the Daniel Webster Highway in a haze of fog and a sea of smiles.

Children of all ages were eager to participate and watch the parade, which included more than 20 local groups and organizations.

"This is just so heartwarming," said Sherry Kalish, director of the Parks and Recreation Department. "It brings all of the families together to kick off the holiday season."

Kalish said she was pleased with the great turnout for the parade, and she commended all of the various businesses and organizations that were eager to get involved. Dozens of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts marched in the parade, along with the Merrimack High School band, dancers from the Belinda Bridgeman Academy of Dance, local police, fire crews and more. The theme for this year's parade was "Holiday Season - A Time for Paws and Reflection," prompting many parade participants to bring their four-legged friends to the celebration.

"We do this every year, and we always look forward to it," said Terry Woods of Advantage Insurance, a local business that volunteered to pull one of the parade floats. "I feel that the parade is the official start to the Christmas season."

Following the parade, which was organized by the Merrimack Parks and Recreation Department and the Merrimack Chamber of Commerce, many of the attendees gathered at Abbie Griffin Park for the traditional tree lighting ceremony. Children also had the opportunity to sit on Santa's lap, deliver their Christmas wish list and get their photographs taken.

Holiday carols were sung, and local residents joined Santa to count down the lighting of the town's Christmas tree.

"This is such a fun and overwhelming event, and it is even bigger and better this year," said Deb Courtemanche, executive director of the Merrimack Chamber of Commerce.

The parade and tree lighting ceremony brings together local businesses, nonprofit groups, schools and more, according to Courtemanche, who said it is a festive way to enjoy the first weekend of December. "It is really every single entity in our town coming together to celebrate," she added.

khoughton@newstote.com


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