By Judy Wakefield
---- — Sure he’s got a busy day ahead of him on Dec. 25. But the big man in the red suit himself is finding time to make his annual visit to Andover on Sunday, Dec. 1, at 1 p.m.
Sponsored by the town’s Fire Rescue Department, Andover’s Santa Parade dates back to the late 1950s when firefighters used to parade Old Saint Nick around town in the fire truck, then host a large gathering at the old central station on Park Street.
The parade, which is always held the Sunday after Thanksgiving, still continues to feature Santa riding through town atop a fire truck.
Rick Pruneau, the owner of Park Street Pub in downtown Andover, who has had a direct line into Santa for more years than he can remember, promises the man of the hour will provide the parade’s grand finale moment.
This year, parade-goers can expect to see a bigger procession as they await Santa’s arrival, with some new groups joining several returning participants. The lineup will include the Jambalaya Jazz Band, ‘60s Invasion, Jazz Disciples, Worcester Fire Pipe & Drums, Campbell Highlanders, The Aleppo Shriners Mounted Patrol, Shriners Mini Haulers (mini tractor-trailer vehicles) as well as numerous Scouting groups and dance troupes.
Due to the increased parade participation, organizers are extending the parade route, which begins and ends at Doherty Middle School on Bartlet Street, by one block.
“Instead of making the traditional left turn onto Punchard Avenue from Main Street, the parade will now continue up Main Street to Morton Street before turning left and returning to the Doherty Middle School on Bartlet Street,” firefighter Richard Krafton Jr. wrote in an email.
The parade steps off from Doherty, then travels down to Whittier, over to Elm and then onto Main Street for the procession downtown, before returning to the school via Morton Street.
This year’s parade theme — “Fired Up for the Holidays — salutes recently retired Andover Police Chef Brian Pattullo, who has been chosen as parade marshal. Pattullo served 32 years in the department.
“The Parade Committee is honoring his community service work. The department was frequently recognized for its professionalism, integrity and outstanding service,” the committee says on the parade’s website.
“For his outstanding commitment to the safety of Andover, and his 32 years of protecting our town, we wish Mr. Pattullo best of luck and a very Merry Christmas.”
New this year will be a “rolling” Toys for Tots collection. Through a partnership with the Marines’ Toys for Tots program, Coady’s Towing of Lawrence will be collecting new, unwrapped toys from the crowd as its large tow trucks roll by. Parade watchers can toss a new toy on the tow truck.
“Andover firefighters are honored to be able to continue this holiday celebration, through the generosity of the Andover Firefighters Relief Association and local business donations,” Krafton wrote.
The parade rain date is Sunday, Dec. 8. For more information, visit www.andoversantaparade.com or call 978-475-1281, ext. 4002.