Annual parade ushers in Santa, holiday season
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Wed., Nov. 30, 2011
The Willimantic Holiday Parade – which celebrated its fourth year on Nov. 26 - has become a local tradition. “This is looking to be our biggest year,” said Josh Niles, from the Windham Center Fire Department. Niles first organized the event in 2007, because there weren’t any holiday parades within driving distance of Windham, he said. The balmy weather this year probably contributed to the large crowd of spectators present along Main Street.
The parade almost became a casualty of the economic downturn in 2011, when it lost its funding from the town of Windham. “We’ve got to thank the Elks Club for saving the parade,” said Niles, adding that the Elks were a major contributor, with other organizations and individuals chipping in. “I feel that it’s a great kick-off to the holiday season,” said Niles, “and it compliments the tree-lighting nicely.”
“It’s fun,” said Austin Deschamps, Jr., a member of Baltic Fire Engine Company #1, as he worked to fasten lights to one of the town’s vehicles.
“It’s part of the community,” added Baltic volunteer Nancy Shuel. “It’s good public relations, too.”
Represented in the parade this year were members of the Franklin, Baltic, North Windham, South Windham, Windham Center, Willimantic, Jewett City and Tolland fire departments. The parade was followed by the traditional tree-lighting ceremony near Jillson Square, and a visit with Santa Claus at the Jillson House Museum.