With temperatures in the 70s and 80s these days, the farthest thing from many people's minds is the city's Santa Parade.

The annual November event kicks off the cold-weather holiday season, with thousands of bundled-up people lining the streets to cheer on dozens of marching bands and floats — and the arrival of Santa.

Although the parade is six months away, organizers wants to get a jump on it now because there is more organizing than usual to do.

This year's theme is "I'll be Home for Christmas" and is dedicated to veterans of every war, in particular those who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, said parade committee Vice Chairman Thomas Sullivan.

He said the parade will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

The parade committee is looking for veterans and veterans organizations to participate in this year's event. It will be Nov. 18. Any veterans interested in participating are asked to contact Parade Chairman Roland Plourde at 978-373-3777.

Float sponsors and participants are welcome to reflect this year's parade theme by honoring veterans or Haverhill natives, heroes, celebrities and ideas that reflect the "I'll be Home for Christmas" theme.

Sullivan said organizers chose the veterans theme because of the national movement to honor veterans at parades and other events.

"We thought it would be a nice tie-in,'' he said, pointing out that this is the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

"It's taken 50 years to give them the recognition they deserve,'' he said of Vietnam veterans.

Sullivan said organizers are trying to arrange for a marching band or uniform division from each branch of the military to participate.

Besides the effort and planning needed to arrange for many veterans to participate, Sullivan said planning for the parade must start now so school groups are aware of the theme. He said they must know the theme before school lets out for summer so students can plan their parade floats and be ready to build them in the fall when school resumes.

The parade is one of Haverhill's biggest social events of the year. Besides lining the parade route of South Main Street in Bradford, Main Street and Kenoza Avenue, residents also have parties at their homes during and after the parade.

The parade begins at Hunking School in Bradford and ends at the VFW headquarters on Kenoza Avenue, just outside Monument Square.

This year's event will be the 48th annual Santa Parade organized by the VFW. Sullivan's father, the late John Sullivan, started the parade in 1964.

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