MERRIMAC — One of the region’s oldest Christmas parades steps off at 1 p.m. on Sunday, as Merrimac heralds the season with a mile-long array of floats and boats, cars and characters, Scouts and sleighs.
From one end of town to the other, the streets of Merrimac will echo with the sounds of marching bands from Andover, Pentucket, Whittier, among others, the ear-splitting sirens of fire engines from far and near, and for the first time in the town’s long history — the unique strains of bagpipes.
“The parade stretches out for over a mile,” according to Jen Marden, one of the 10 residents who organize the event every year. “It takes about an hour for the entire assemblage to get from one end of the route to the other.”
Besides Santa and his reindeer-powered sleigh, this year’s event includes a broad array of alternative transportation, including classic cars, antique military jeeps and even monster trucks. Be sure to check out Rudolph’s electrifying nose, too, which lights up to enhance nighttime visibility for Santa.
Boy Scouts from Pack 14 will be collecting winter clothing donations along the route, while the Girl Scouts of Troop 68000 gather non-perishable items for the food pantry at the Merrimac Senior Center.
King and Queen of the parade this year are Danny Oteri and Lauren DeBoyes, both sixth-graders at the Donahue School. Along with Grand Marshal Bruce Bridges, they will be leading the 15 to 20 cartoon characters who are expected to show up for the parade.
In conjunction with Sunday’s Christmas parade, the Merrimac Light Department will hold its annual tree lighting event, a town tradition for nearly two decades, at 5 p.m. at Kimball Park on West Main Street.
Visitors are encouraged to sing along with the holiday music and enjoy free hot chocolate at the tree lighting ceremony. Plus, children should remember to bring their Christmas wish lists to give to Santa at the event. He will be collecting them from all of his little believers, who need not be Merrimac residents.