hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

February 27, 2014

When it comes to Santa Parade, leave well enough alone

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — For decades, Santa Claus has come to town — and he’a always taken the same route.

It starts near Hunking School and the Bradford Fire Station, winds along Route 125 and then over the Basiliere Bridge and up the hill past City Hall. Finally, St. Nick’s route takes him through Monument Square and to the VFW post on Kenoza Avenue — the end of the road.

The annual Santa Parade is Haverhill’s social highlight of the year, drawing thousands of spectators at curbside and in the front yards of neighbors along the route. Depending on the weather, they have cookouts and parties in their yards and on their porches as the marching bands and floats go past — capped off by an appearance by Santa.

There has talk among some residents of changing the parade route so marchers turns onto downtown Merrimack Street when they cross the Basiliere Bridge. That would bring the parade into Washington Square, the heart of downtown, where it would join with the lighting of the community Christmas tree. (See story, Page 1.)

The idea emerged during last month’s Possible Dreams event, an annual session organized by the Team Haverhill civic group. The session is designed to let residents suggest ways to make Haverhill a better place to live.

Because so much of Haverhill’s holiday celebrating happens downtown with the annual Christmas Stroll, it seems sensible to reroute the parade in that direction.

But once you take a closer look at the issue, you realize the problems it could create.

You’d think downtown businesses would welcome the crowds that line the streets for the parade. But several downtown merchants said such an event would only keep customers away by causing traffic to be detoured. They said parade-goers would tend not to patronize businesses, instead keeping their focus on the parade and celebration.

Then there are the people and places toward the end of the traditional route that depend on the parade to draw people. In particular, the Universalist Unitarian Church just outside of Monument Square uses the parade to draw attention to its food pantry and efforts to help hungry people in the community.

So when Santa comes to town for his 50th annual parade later this year, it’s best he keep to his traditional route.

Let’s leave well enough alone.