NEWBURYPORT – Family, friends, politicians, firetrucks, classic cars, children tossing candy and the rat-a-tat-tat rhythm of snare drums brought to life the tradition during the 60th Yankee Homecoming parade on Sunday afternoon.
Picture-perfect weather with temperatures in the mid-70s and a pleasant breeze made taking in all those traditions all the more grand for the thousands of people who lined both sides of High Street.
The parade marks the official end of the weeklong celebration, and draws thousands of former residents back to the city and countless numbers from throughout Newburyport and the region.
As tradition dictates, the parade stepped off about noon from the Three Corners area of the city and continued – sometimes slowly and sometimes even coming to a halt – along High Street until reaching its apex near the Newbury border.
The familiar blare of fire engines could be heard by anyone within city limits as firefighters from departments across the state and New Hampshire let their sirens rip at full blast and rode their horns. The sight of children covering their ears or parents covering their children's ears was common.
Among the area departments spotted were Newburyport, Newbury, Byfield, West Newbury, Amesbury, Salisbury and Merrimac.
Following the phalanx of fire engines, police motorcycles from several departments scooted right behind. Every so often, the motorcyclists, led by Newburyport police Lt. Matthew Simons, would break from formation and perform a mechanized dance to the delight of parade watchers.
After a small-but-sweet collection of antique cars rolled past, there was the familiar lull (clocked at about 25 minutes) between the vehicles and the rest of the parade.
The lull has almost become a tradition itself, drawing plenty of critics who can't understand the delay. Others just chalk it up as one of those quirks that makes the day special.
The owner of 146 High St. took advantage of the lull to shower while her guests remained on her porch, soaking in the sights. Among the guests were friends Marc Simmons and Lori Towle, both of Newbury.
"It's a great family tradition," Towle said of the parade.
Simmons said the parade might come across as boring to those not in the spirit but added that it was a great opportunity for family and friends to come together one last time before Yankee Homecoming wraps up for another year.
And in this case, Simmons' two daughters, Jessica and Angela, were part of the parade, throwing candy from the Committee for Open Waterfront float.
"If you live in this town, you have some connection to someone in the parade," Simmons said.
Once the parade resumed, another familiar sight — politicians — were among the first to pass
State Rep. James Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, told the crowd he was getting sweaty as he raced to shake hands with just about everyone he saw. Mayor Donna Holaday and mayoral candidate Bob Cronin, a member of the City Council, each had contingents holding signs. Another candidate, Dr. Hazen Mahmoud, walked along the route, introducing himself and handing out pamphlets.
Other parade highlights included the appearance of a dozen or so Shriners in turn-of-the-20th-century motorized carriages, music from The New Liberty Jazz Band, a large contingent from the substance abuse recovery Pelican Intervention Fund, and a boisterous gaggle of children from the Newburyport Youth Football league.
Staff Writer Dave Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.