The Hippo


Jul 23, 2019








The Concord Dance Academy performs at last year’s parade. Courtesy photo.

64th Annual Concord Christmas Parade

When: Saturday, Nov. 21, at 9:30 a.m. 
Where: Loudon Road, between Hazen and D’Amante Drives. Performances are held at The Stove Barn, 249 Loudon Road. 
Cost: Free

Merry marching
Concord kicks off holiday season with Christmas Parade

By Angie Sykeny

While most towns don’t have their Christmas festivities until after Thanksgiving, Concord Christmas Parade committee chair Dick Patten says, “Why wait?”

“People will say, ‘Jeez, [before Thanksgiving] is too early,’” he said. “But you can’t tell me it’s too early when department stores are ready for Christmas by September, and the radio stations start playing Christmas music on Nov. 1.” 
The 64th Annual Concord Christmas Parade is set for Nov. 21, keeping with its traditional date on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It will start at 9:30 a.m., on Hazen Drive, turning east on Loudon Road, then proceeding to the Steeplegate Mall, where it will disband. The parade will end with a series of performances at the review stand in front of The Stove Barn on Loudon Road, just before the mall. 
The theme for this year’s parade is Concord’s 250th anniversary. In addition to a Concord 250 float, all other floats will make mention of the anniversary in some way.
The parade lineup includes a veterans division, marching bands from Concord High School and Merrimack Valley, fire trucks and other community vehicles, antique cars and more. Saint Andrew’s Society of NH Color Guard and Drum & Pipe will return with a group double the size it had last year, and the Muchachos Drum & Bugle Corps of Manchester will be making its parade debut. There will also be some notable guests like Miss New Hampshire 2015 Holly Blanchard, WMUR’s Kevin Skarupa and Hayley LaPoint and NH1’s Joe Joyce. 
The parade will have two grand marshals. One is Gene Connolly, Concord High School’s principal who is resigning this year due to ALS. The community has rallied to support Connolly and even organized a charity walk last month to help with his medical costs. 
The second grand marshal is Hailey, a Wish-Child with the Make-A-Wish NH Chapter. Hailey already got her wish — to be a cowgirl and ride a horse — but she’ll get to take it one step further by riding through the parade in a buggy pulled by a miniature horse. 
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Christmas parade without Santa. You’ll find him at the end of the line on a large float, riding his sleigh. 
Performances by local dance groups are always a highlight. One of the most anticipated performances is that of longtime paraders the Concord Dance Academy group. They have a big entry planned for this year as well as their traditional “CDA Rockettes” kickline show. 
In previous years, the parade would pause mid-route for the performances to take place, similar to the Macy’s Day Parade. The problem was that people mistook the pauses for the end of the parade. This year, all performances will be held at the review stand after the parade has completed its route. 
Patten said that while having a Christmas parade before Thanksgiving may seem strange, it hasn’t been a hindrance. On the contrary, having it at a time when temperatures are still tolerable has yielded a large turnout of both attendees and participants. 
“People say we have the best, biggest parade in New England,” Patten said. “Now, I don’t know that for a fact … but we’ve been told there’s 10 to 15 thousand people who come. It’s always big. We’ve ended up with as many as 125 [participant] entries. And it’s the longest-going parade in the state that I’m aware of.”
The parade committee has resolved to keep the parade from becoming a platform for advertising. Local businesses are welcome to have floats, but they’re required to decorate the floats and adhere to the spirit of the parade. Political campaigning is also dissuaded for the same reason. 
“We don’t like to exclude people, but it’s a Christmas parade, not a political rally,” co-chair James Cusano said. 
For Patten, who has organized the parade since 1971, it’s about preserving the magic for future generations. 
“When I was a kid, we didn’t have much, but my folks always made sure we went to the parade,”  he said. “For us, it was a big deal to see Santa. I’d like to think it’s still very magical. All parades are special, and I want people to be proud of Concord’s.”

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