hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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February 27, 2014

Santa Parade debate: Should route go downtown?

Merchants, participants frown on suggestion

When Santa Claus comes to town, some locals want him to change his change his focus to the downtown.

There has been chatter about changing the route of the annual Santa Parade, Haverhill’s biggest social event of the year.

The current longtime route has the parade going from the Bradford Fire Station along Route 125, across the Basiliere Bridge past City Hall. The parade then turns onto Kenoza Avenue and ends at the VFW post.

At the recent Team Haverhill organization’s Possible Dreams conference, some residents suggested exploring a change to the route so the parade would turn onto downtown Merrimack Street after it crosses the bridge, and end in Washington Square with the lighting of the community Christmas tree.

“It was nothing more than another item we put on our list of ideas to talk about. It was a simple discussion as part of the night, and not a special topic we made any plans to act on,” said Alice Mann, moderator of the Possible Dreams meeting, an annual event where people from across the community brainstorm about ways to improve the city.

But the item has caused some chatter in this year that marks the 50th anniversary of the parade.

The owners of two prominent downtown businesses, Barrett’s Specialty Foods at 103 Merrimack St. and the A-1 Deli at 92 Merrimack St., agreed the parade would not do anything to boost their sales. In fact, they said, having the parade downtown would hurt them.

It would disrupt regular traffic, and viewers do not usually stop in to shop during a parade, the merchants said. They also have personal reasons for not wanting the parade to march past their businesses.

“It’s one of the few days that I close because it’s a big event for my family to get together,” said Barrett’s owner Melinda Barrett, who is also a city councilor.

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