FLOATINGWinter Wonderland IN A
LIGHT PARADES MAKE DECEMBER EVEN BRIGHTER
PParades in the warm weather are a part of Americana, for sure, but this region has distinguished itself by hosting its most popular ones during hat and mitten season. The Groton Lights Parade is the first on the calendar, stepping off at 5 p.m. on Dec. 6. It has grown into a tradition for the city on the other side of the Thames River as the parade celebrates its 10th year.
Lian Obrey, a Realtor in the area for 33 years, co-chairs the event on behalf of its sponsor, the Groton Business Association of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce. The parade attracts 40 to 50 groups.
“It’s a big job,” Obrey says. “We have done so much already.”
During the fall, they were working on lining up musical talent, from area high school marching bands to local fife and drum corps. The more the merrier and they are still open to hearing from bands, Obrey says.
“When you have a parade, you’ve gotta have music,” she says.
Not enough can be says about the effect the combination of nighttime and the glistening accoutrements have on the whole event.
“Because it’s at night, you could even put a light on me and I would look good,” Obrey says.
The parade starts at Groton’s water filtration plant (1268 Poqunnock Road/ Route 1) and continues up Route 1, then turns onto Drozdyk Drive and ends at the back of the shopping plaza there. An after-party follows, complete with Santa lighting the tree. An ensemble from the Navy band out of Newport, R.I., will be on hand to make the celebration even more festive.
“It’s a magical night,” says Obrey, who has been involved with the parade since its beginning a decade ago. “I enjoy working on it. When you sell real estate, the community is your store. You have to give back.”
Eight days later is, to steal a slogan from a rather famous football game in Pasadena, the Granddaddy of Them All. That would be the Niantic Light Parade on Dec. 14 (rain/snow date Dec. 15 ), which begins at Frosty Treat on Main Street, turns left onto Pennsylvania Avenue and ends on Grand Street. For 20 years it has gone from local curiosity to local legend.
“It is probably the largest and longest-running light parade in New England,” says Paul Cushing of ProTek Auto in Niantic, who is on the parade committee. He says there is an average of 60 entries, from dance groups to neighborhood floats to commercial entities. They all have one thing in common: each is covered in lights.
The crowds the parade attracts are legendary, and the committee is encouraging spectators to give back this year by hosting a vehicle in the parade that will collect nonperishable food donations.
“We figure if everyone puts a can of food in each of their pockets and the idea catches on, we’ll need a larger vehicle next year,” Cushing says.
Another philanthropic aspect of the parade is the “matching” of category winners with participating lending institutions in the area. Each winner will be able to donate $500 to the charity of their choice, courtesy of their “sponsor.” Cushing estimates the parade has helped raise $10,000 for local charities in this fashion.
As for his crew at ProTek, they took 2007 off because of major renovations at the shop.
“We’re in the mode,” Cushing says. “The team is anxious to build this year.”
ALONG WITH MYRIAD FLOATS (OPPOSITE PAGE), THE PARADES ATTRACT MANY MARCHERS.
DAY FILE PHOTOS