FALL RIVER — Better watch out — and make sure you take the dib in a spot with a good view.
Santa Claus is coming to town on Saturday, December 3, with the return of a beloved town tradition.
You’d be hard pressed not to catch that festive feeling as the Children’s Holiday Parade descends on downtown Fall River, with decorated floats, marching bands, giant balloons, costumed characters and more making their way down South Main Street.
Now in its 38th year, the annual event has grown into one of the largest children’s holiday parades in New England. And this year the city show does not disappoint, the organizers promise.
“It’s a staple here in our city,” said Greater Fall River Re-Creation Executive Director Grace Gerling, who looks forward to watching the looks of joy on the faces of spectators, young and old, lining the downtown sidewalks the city to see the action.
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“I love to see kids, even adults, excited about whatever is happening on the street,” Gerling said.
Greater Fall River Re-Creation, in conjunction with the Fall River Holiday Parade Committee, Inc., has taken over the reins as the primary parade organizer for the past two years after receiving just over $63,000 in ARPA funding to help the event in 2022 to life. .
According to Gerling, the parade draws about 20,000 people from Fall River and beyond each year, and people clamoring for a prime spot can be seen lining the route as early as 11 a.m.
Some highlights of the 2022 event include three giant balloons – proven crowd pleasers that will be manned by 30 volunteers – as well as the return of the majestic Hallamore Clydesdale horses, a pair of camels and Arabian horses from Fairhaven’s Cranberry Knoll.
“Some kids have never seen a horse or a camel up close, so it’s definitely a big deal,” Gerling said. “And obviously you can’t have a parade without music.”
As of Tuesday, Gerling said the parade was held at about 108 participating units, including 14 bands — high school bands from across the region, bagpipes, drum and loop bands and marching bands — 14 Fall River-area schools, local police and fire departments. and a total of 18 floats, as well as a division consisting of state and local officials.
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Prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place will be awarded to the most creative floats, who earn bragging rights as well as a ribbon or crown signifying their win as they make their way along the parade route.
The headliner, as always, is Santa and Mrs. Claus, who arrive early from the North Pole around 12:45 p.m. “It always comes with a bang,” Gerling said.
The parade leaves Kennedy Park at 1:00 p.m
Marchers are asked to register at the parade tent at the corner of Bradford Avenue and South Main Street no later than 11:30am. Floats and large vehicles check in no later than 10:00 a.m. at the corner of Bradford Avenue and Broadway.
Broadway, from Bradford Avenue to Middle Street, will be closed to traffic at 10:30 a.m. to facilitate preparations for the parade.
Gerling noted that shuttles will be available at the Fall River Public Library on North Main Street to transport people to Kennedy Park.
According to Gerling, the Children’s Holiday Parade is truly a team effort, with 60 to 75 volunteers involved in making it a reality each year, assisting with everything from planning to the balloon fight to putting on the costume.
Students from Diman and Durfee, as well as Saint Anne Hospital, are among those loyal volunteers, the Fall River Police Department is on hand for security, and the Department of Public Works plays an important role in logistics.
“We certainly can’t do this alone … we have a great community here in Fall River that always steps up and helps,” Gerling said.
While the parade is considered the main event, the festivities officially begin in Fall River a few days before with a tree lighting celebration at the Government Center on Thursday, December 1st. Watch the town’s holiday tree light up and enjoy live performances, crafts. and activities, free hot cocoa and photos with Santa from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
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Rounding out the festive weekend is Greater Fall River Re-Creation’s Christmas Celebration on Sunday, Dec. 4, from noon to 3 p.m. at the agency’s 45 Rock St. home. The event includes tons of free family fun, from train rides to kids at a petting zoo, pictures with St. Nick, holiday crafts at Santa’s workshop and face painting.
Later Sunday evening, beginning at 5 p.m., Kennedy Park will be illuminated for the launch of the first Winter Wonderland Festival of Lights, presented by the nonprofit organization Creative Community Vision.
“It’s going to be a busy, busy weekend, that’s for sure,” Gerling said.
For more information or updates on the 2022 Children’s Holiday Parade, visit Greater Fall River Re-Creation’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/greaterfallriverrec.