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Great day for a parade

By Amy Salvagno
C & G Staff Writer

Once blessings have been acknowledged, turkey and stuffing labeled as leftovers, and jingle bells and festive carols welcomed, the Village streets come alive with Christmastime.

From bright banners and boisterous marching bands to flashy floats and eight flying reindeer, nothing greets the holiday season quite like a decades-old, after-Thanksgiving tradition: the Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade.

Santa Claus sticks around

Santa will be visiting several shops following his appearance at the Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade Nov. 23.

From noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 23 and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 24, he will greet children at Village Toy Company. From 3-7 p.m. Nov. 30 and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 1, he will be at Village Ace Hardware.  On Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., he will be back at Village Toy Company and then stop over at Hickey’s Walton Pierce from 3-7 p.m. Dec. 14 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 15.

In its 32rd year, the Kercheval Avenue procession, to be held on Nov. 23, promises again to sprinkle out to sidewalk-sitters the first of yuletide spirit, especially with the arrival of the white-bearded, jolly figure aboard his special sleigh, featuring soaring reindeer and picturesque scenes from around the Grosse Pointes.

More than 50 community groups will take their place along the parade route, from loyal golden retrievers and their owners to Brownies and Cub Scout troops. The Detroit Fire Department Clown Corps, along with 10 high school marching bands, return this year, joined for the first time by a few new participants, including the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium and their watery float.

According to parade director Terri Berschback, preparations begin in late August, though very early on, she is able to choose floats by the Parade Company, the Detroit-based nonprofit responsible for producing America’s Thanksgiving Parade. The six attractions each depict a different holiday on a search for Christmas — and they were responsible for setting the My Favorite Holiday theme for the Paint the Window Contest in May and the adult version at Grosse Pointe’s Greatest Block Party.

Berschback begins with raising money and then slowly, Parade Central — a.k.a. her basement — is up and running. On one wall, she has mapped out the route and color-coded sections of marchers with Post-it notes, making sure to keep the motorcycles away from the horses and the dogs away from the fire engine and its siren. The basement is also crammed with 100 banners, fleece jackets and Santa hats for 125 people, and 85-90 pieces of conduit.

“You’ve got to be rather flexible,” she said, noting that her part-time position is actually quite fun — except for the shifty weather. “The next job I get is going to be indoors. I’ve worked through record cold, pouring rain — if it ended up being a bright, sunny day, I don’t know what I would do with myself.”

On parade day, Berschback hops on a golf cart and meets up with the groups at the staging area at Lewiston and Kercheval, along with the parade marshals assigned to different sections. Often, she wizzes back and forth until the show starts moving and then heads to Kercheval to make sure it’s all running smoothly.

“It goes from mass chaos to ‘wow.’ It’s nice to watch the crowds watch the parade.”

This year, along with the new Parade Company floats, Berschback said there are two special guests who will make an appearance. But that surprise won’t be revealed until they show up on the parade route.

Ellen Durand, president of the Village Association, whose family has long owned Village Toy Company, says there’s a reason the parade is treasured and looked forward to each year.

“It’s certainly the biggest community parade I think I’ve seen with a small town flavor. If you’re not in the parade, you’re watching the parade. Everyone comes for it,” she said. “It’s tradition and tradition. I have the same families that come and sit in front of my store every year, and now they’re brining their grandchildren.”

The Pre-Parade Festival, featuring the Magic of Nick, will be held at 9:45 a.m. on Kercheval, between Cadieux and Notre Dame. The parade, presented by Pentastar Aviation, with funding assistance from Henry Ford Cottage Hospital, Crest Volvo, and St. John Hospital and Medical Center, begins at 10 a.m.

At 4:30 p.m., the Authentic Dickens Carolers, presented by JP Morgan Chase, will appear in concert at the corner of Kercheval and St. Clair. At 5 p.m., Mayor Dale Scrace will light the Village Christmas tree, followed by a holiday sing-a-long with the Carolers and complimentary hot chocolate from the Grosse Pointe Boat Club.

You can reach Staff Writer Amy Salvagno at asalvagno@candgnews.com or at (586) 498-1037.

Source: C&G Publishing