MANCHESTER — Elm Street will be filled with lights, music and holiday cheer when more than 80 local organizations march through downtown in the 2013 Spirit of New Hampshire Christmas Parade Saturday afternoon.
Throw in thousands of speedy St. Nicks making their way through the annual Santa Shuffle road race, and it will be hard not to get caught up in the spirit of the season in the Queen City this weekend.
Sara Beaudry, director of marketing for Intown Manchester and the 2013 parade organizer, says this year's parade features an even larger lineup of participants.
"This year we have over 80 very enthusiastic groups participating — many of our favorite groups are returning such as Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, the Storm Troopers and a local high school marching band from Memorial High School but new groups like the New England Brethren of Pirates and Habitat for Humanity have also joined on," said Beaudry. "We anticipate 30,000 people attending this year."
The 2013 Granite State Credit Union Spirit of New Hampshire Christmas Parade is scheduled to step off at 4 p.m. Saturday at 1750 Elm St., with Rudolph and his red nose leading the way, and end around 6 p.m. at the intersection of Elm Street and Lake Avenue/Granite Street.
For the 15th straight year, Manchester firefighters will be stationed along the parade route, collecting money for the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army.
"The public has been tremendously supportive over the years, and people tell us they have come to expect us leading the parade now," said Manchester Fire Capt. Brendan Burns, who is coordinating this year's 'Fill the Boot' campaign. "Even as the economy has its ups and downs, we see a steady stream of donations every year and we appreciate every penny people can give, no matter how large or small. All of the firefighters who march with their boots are off duty, on their own time and happy to help the Salvation Army."
Charlie Sherman, Executive Director of New Horizons for New Hampshire, will serve as grand marshal for this year's parade. New Horizons is the spotlighted charity of the 2013 parade.
"I am honored to be the grand marshal of this year's Spirit of New Hampshire Christmas Parade," said Sherman. "There are so many people in our community who are deserving of the recognition, so I am quite humbled. Each year Intown Manchester and Sara Beaudry do such a great job putting together the largest parade in the state. The Spirit of Christmas Parade is such a great way to officially kick-off the holiday season so I hope everyone will come out and line Elm Street on Saturday."
The third annual BASC Santa Shuffle gets underway at 3:15 p.m. Saturday. Organizers expect that between 3,000 and 4,000 runners will participate, and they have 4,000 Santa suits ready to hand out to adult runners.
"We already have 3,000 runners registered," said John Mortimer of Millennium Running. "With a favorable forecast for Saturday afternoon, we're hoping to get close to 4,000 people. The sight of thousands of Santas running up and down Elm Street is something you'll never forget."
The race benefits the Safe Sports Network, which provides free athletic training services to 12 area high schools. Runners can register for the Santa Shuffle Friday at the Toys R Us store in Manchester from 4 to 7 p.m. Race day registration is at the Radisson Hotel ballroom in Manchester starting at 1:30 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.
About the time the race ends, at roughly 4 p.m., the Christmas parade is expected to step off.
Manchester police Sgt. Andrew Vincent of the city's traffic unit said hosting two events will require the following road closures:
Beginning at 10 a.m., Pleasant Street will close from Elm Street to Franklin Street.
Beginning at 1 p.m., Elm Street will be blocked off from Merrimack Street to Granite Street.
At 3 p.m., Elm Street will be closed from Lake Avenue to Carpenter Street; Webster St. will be closed from River Road to Union Street; the Bridge Street bridge will be closed; and east-bound traffic on the Amoskeag Bridge will be diverted to Canal Street. The closures will remain in effect until both events have concluded.