The 55th annual VFW Santa Parade kicks off Sunday, Nov. 24, at 1 p.m. in front of the Bradford fire station on South Main Street.
The biggest and longest running Santa Parade north of Boston will feature the theme, "Santa Celebrates Haverhill's Heroes.''
After crossing the Basiliere Bridge, the parade will turn left onto Merrimack Street, the route it originally took decades ago.
The parade will continue on to Washington Square, then will head north on Emerson Street, where it will disband in front of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Haverhill.
As usual, Santa will be traveling on a float at the end of the parade. More than two dozen floats are expected to participate in this year's parade, along with more than a dozen marching bands and other musical groups.
Organizer Daniel Plourde Sr. said the parade has a budget of about $45,000, which primarily pays for the marching bands and other performers, as well as the Clydesdale horses and general operating expenses.
Donations will help support this year’s event, which is financially supported by donations only. Parade-goers are asked to watch for costumed characters walking alongside a pickup truck and trailer, collecting donations to help support the parade.
The 21st annual Betsy Conte Food Drive will take place during the parade. Spectators are asked to bring non-perishable food items, such as toiletries, toilet paper, canned meat products and peanut butter.
Wagons will be pulled along the parade route to collect the donations, all of which will be transferred to hay wagons donated by Chris' Farm Stand and sorted by the Boy Scouts of Troop 5 from West Church and Betsy Conte's children, grandchildren, other family members and friends.
The wagons will deliver all of the items collected to the Universalist Unitarian Church on Ashland Street for distribution to local food pantries in conjunction with the Interfaith Network of Caring. Food pantries participating in this year'sdrive include Calvary Baptist Church, All Saints Parish, Sacred Hearts Parish, Liz Murphy Open Hand Pantry, Somebody Cares New England, the Pregnancy Care Center, Presidential Garden, Rehoboth Lighthouse Church, and Emmaus House.
The drive celebrates the memory of Conte, a former Haverhill city councilor and community activist.
PARADE STREET CLOSURE
On the day of the parade, Route 125 (South Main Street) will be closed from 12:15 to 4 p.m. from the Bradford Fire Station to the north side of the Basiliere Bridge.
The following streets will be closed from noon to 4:30 p.m.: Merrimack Street from Route 125 (Main Street) to Emerson Street, Emerson Street to Bailey Boulevard, and all of Bailey Boulevard.
There will be no parking on any of the above streets, and vehicles not moved by noon will be towed at the vehicle owner’s expense, parade organizers said. Vehicles will not be allowed to leave any parking lot located within the closed areas.
The Haverhill Police Department will have officers on duty at the parade and will be able to assist residents in case of an extreme emergency.
Visit online at haverhillsantaparade.com.