Annika, Sapphira and Melissa were all smiles as the Whiter Tiger Karate float made its way through Northfield and Tilton last Saturday for the fourth annual Holiday Parade. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
December 07, 2011TILTON — Fair weather and high spirits abounded last Saturday as the Holiday Parade for Tilton and Northfield hit the streets, where unseasonable temperatures brought out large crowds to see the many floats and catch a glimpse of Santa on his way to Riverfront Park.
Local shops opened their doors to holiday bargains along Main Street, and Trinity Church took their hospitality a step further by offering a Cookie Walk and free hot soup to all who stopped by prior to their regular Saturday night Open Door Dinner.
"That's all gone very well today, and now, we're all outside feverishly anticipating the parade," said Father Mark.
Another duo anxious for the parade were two-year-old twins Brooke and Brianna from Tilton. Their parents said it was the girls' first parade, and the presence of Santa would make it all the more memorable.
It wasn't long before the Northfield and Tilton police led the procession along Elm Street in Northfield, then over Cannon Bridge and into Tilton.
Armed with bags passed out by Franklin Savings Bank, boys and girls scooped up candy as each float passed by.
Trinity Church had two entries, loaded with elves and holiday cheer. Winnisquam Marine towed beautifully decorated boats along the route and Girl Scout Troops, White Tiger Karate, Rusty's Towing and others took part in the moving festival of lights as sunset crept into the town.
Tilton-Northfield Rotary was the float everyone eventually had their eyes on, however, as they escorted the most sought after resident of the North Pole through the two towns.
Santa alit from the float at Riverfront Park where he then took a seat and, assisted by two special local elves, Alicia Lemire and Jerry Davis, he began to visit with all the boys and girls. Thanks to the generosity of many donations, Davis and Lemire then handed each child a special early holiday gift.
"I got a dog from Santa," said six-year-old Rylan from Northfield, who then explained, "It's not a real dog but it goes in the tub."
Her friend Ayla got a Cabbage Patch doll, and each child was delighted with their new toys.
Besides Santa, the pavilion at the park was filled with holiday treats. Panera Bread donated foods for the crowds, as did Bread and Chocolate of Concord, Starbucks and Tilton School, who sent down gallons of hot chocolate for everyone to enjoy.
This year was the first time the Tilton Parks Department took on the challenge of organizing the holiday parade, and chairman Bob Hardy was pleased with the results.
"The biggest challenge was fitting all the pieces of the day together. Northfield stepped in to be a part of it a few weeks ago, and we were 100 percent all for having them join us," said Hardy. "All the kids are enjoying it, and that's what really matters."
Northfield Selectman Lisa Swancott said she had fun riding in her convertible from Tilton AutoServ, tossing candy to the children. Because the other two selectmen from Northfield had prior commitments, Swancott was joined by budget committee member Gretchen Wilder, and said she was happy the two towns were able to join together in celebration of the holidays.
"We were invited by the Parks Commission to take part in the parade, and Steve (Adams, Northfield Police Chief) and Bob (Cormier, Tilton Police Chief) worked well together in getting the new route through both towns set up. We just couldn't have asked for a better day," said Swancott.
Pat Consentino, Chairman of the Tilton Board of Selectmen, was equally pleased with the parade and many activities.
"A lot of hard work went into putting this all together, along with all the businesses who so generously donated toward it all. It really has been wonderful," she said.
At 5:30 p.m., the Vicy Virgin memorial Christmas tree, a beautiful spruce planted in the Tilton resident's name after her passing this summer, was lit up for the first time. Virgin, a former member of the Board of Selectmen, Parks and Conservation commissions, and many other town organizations had always wanted a Christmas tree at the Main Street park for all to enjoy and the Park commission was happy to honor both her service to the town, her wishes and her memory.
A brilliant fireworks display over the Winnipesaukee River capped off the evening's events. Hardy said he is looking forward to next year's parade, which he hopes will only continue to grow in both size and popularity.