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The Day - Sound & Country - - Lighting Upthe Decades - By SU­SAN BAN­NING Day Staff Writer

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.”


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