Lynn prepares for annual 22-mile Christmas Eve parade

Credit: Photo courtesy of Lynn Christmas Eve Parade Committee

Lynn’s 26th annual Christmas Eve parade will roll through the city tonight, with special tributes to the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and twin brothers who were struck by a vehicle in Austin Square in September. One of the brothers was killed.

More than 100 vehicles, including fire trucks, boats, tow trucks, antique cars, and floats, will start the parade at 5 p.m., said parade volunteer Jordan Avery, 19, of Lynn.

“Salem has Halloween, but Lynn has Christmas Eve,” Avery said. “It’s really a big thing to a lot of people.”

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The parade will follow a wreath-laying ceremony for Dillon and Riley McManus, twin brothers who were hit by a Hummer just outside of their Boston Street home while walking home from a 7-Eleven.

Dillon was killed. Riley, who was in a coma following the crash, will be at tonight’s ceremony.

“Great kids,” Avery said. “I know it’s definitely going to hit me this year.”

Sarah Beliveau was struck and killed at the same intersection several years ago. She will also be honored at tonight’s parade.

The 115 vehicles and floats will line up at Boston and Summer streets for the parade, which began in 1986. The parade will head down Myrtle Street to Holyoke Street and down O’Callaghan Way, taking a 22-mile tour of the city.

“It’s a long parade,” Avery said. “We don’t end till about 10.”

But five hours is only an approximation, he said, as parade coordinators don’t want to rush the show.

“The slower the better, they say,” Avery said. “Let the people enjoy it.”

Rich Viger, 52, of Lynn, spearheads the parade committee every year.

“Twenty-six years ago, we saw Saugus doing it and we said, ‘They can do it, why can’t we?’” Viger said. “It’s a lot of work, but it pays off.”

Viger will be driving a six-wheeled dump truck, decorated with Christmas lights and an inflatable space shuttle.

“People look forward to it,” he said. “They come out in droves. Seeing the smiles on people’s faces, that’s what it’s all about.”

Volunteers have been out since 9 a.m., putting up “no parking” signs and getting the parade route ready, he said.

The streets will be shut down around 3:30 this afternoon, as residents line up for the event.

“We have thousands and thousands of people lining the streets,” Avery said. “Everywhere you go, there’s parties along the way.”

He recalled a man last year who brought a grill out to the street and handed hot dogs to parade spectators.

The floats are made by businesses across the North Shore, local Lynn residents, and various fire departments, he said. There is only one rule: Don’t bring a dark float.

“The goal is a lot of lights,” he said. “Our mission is to bring cheer and happiness to the people of the city.”

Last in the parade line will be a retired Lynn fire truck from 1979, carrying Santa and Mrs. Claus. The truck will honor Sandy Hook Elementary School and will be decorated with balloons and ribbons in the school’s colors, Avery said.

“We thought it would a good idea,” Viger said. “We can’t forget them, especially this time of year.”

There are other floats dedicated to breast cancer awareness and to the military, Avery said.

“There are so many good outreaches,” he said. “It’s amazing what people come up with.”

There may even be a surprise marriage proposal, he said.

Avery, who has dressed as a gingerbread man, Tigger, and Winnie the Pooh in past parades, has retired from costumed characters.

This year he’ll help line up the floats, making sure there is at least one musical float for every three to four vehicles, so that people are never out of earshot of holiday tunes.

Then, he might jump in the Lynn police cruiser that leads the parade, to make sure the caravan takes the right route.

“This is something I love to do. There are so many great volunteers,” Avery said. “Just like kids can’t sleep the night before Christmas because they’re so exited, I can’t sleep the night before Christmas Eve because I’m so excited for the parade.”

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