By Judy Wakefield
---- — It will be a Santa parade with history at both ends as our award-winning girls swim team and coach will lead the way, and a favorite Santa will ride atop the popular holiday firetruck caboose.
“The real Santa is back,” laughed the jolly, white-haired Rick Pruneau, the owner of Park Street Pub, who looks a lot like Santa. “I love seeing the little kids. And the big kids, too.”
Pruneau is back after a short break and is clearly thrilled to be back.
“Anything for the town,” he said of his favorite volunteer job that truly suits him — in red with a big black belt for Sunday’s parade.
Meanwhile, leading the parade as grand marshall wil be Andover High School girls swim coach Marilyn Fitzgerald.
Parade organizers selected Fitzgerald as she represents a terrific tradition in town.
“Her teams have won so many championships and she is just a great person. So many people were happy to hear that she is the grand marshal,” said Andover Firefighter Richard Krafton, who is chairing this year’s parade committee.
Fitzgerald said the team marches in the Santa Parade when they win state championships. That’s worked out to 13 parade marches in the last 14 years. As grand marshal this year, Fitzgerald will sit in a car and sitting solo was not an option.
“I told the girls that, if I have to sit in that car as the grand marshal and you aren’t behind me marching, there is going to be heck to pay,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald will be surrounded by her swimmers as her Golden Warrior swim team came though, winning its fourth straight state title last Sunday.
In between the grand dame of a marshal and Santa on the firetruck caboose, there will be bands and floats. Krafton said 45 units — from antique cars to bands — are in the lineup. St. Augustine School and The Mother Connection will have floats in the parade.
“There is something for everyone,” Krafton said.
Andover’s holiday spirit officially arrives when the annual parade comes to town on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Andover's Santa parade, hosted by the Andover Fire Department, is Sunday, Nov. 25 at 1 p.m. starting at the Park on Bartlet & Chestnut streets, to Whittier, Elm, Main streets, and ends on Punchard Avenue.