by DREW HOWARD
Sunshine and warm weather couldn’t stop Rochester residents from getting into the Christmas spirit during the 66th annual Christmas Parade this past Sunday, December 3.
Thousands gathered in Downtown Rochester as floats, dancers, horses, bands and more strolled down Main Street to avid fanfare. This year’s theme was titled “vintage Christmas.”
“We chose the theme vintage Christmas because we wanted to honor the city of Rochester’s bicentennial year,” Alaina Campbell, president of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, said. “They celebrated 200 years as a city – that was something very important. We work closely with the city to put together the parade and we appreciate all their support and assistance.”
The vintage Christmas theme was on full display in the RARA float, which featured children in Christmas pajamas gathered in an old-fashioned living room setting.
The Older Persons’ Commission and the Van Hoosen Museum also got creative with this year’s parade theme. Members of the OPC danced along to The Beatles hit song, “Twist and Shout,” atop their float, while the Van Hoosen Museum rolled down in a vintage tractor showcasing historical images.
Campbell said this year’s parade drew one of the biggest crowds Rochester has ever seen for this event.
“I’m sure the amazing weather had something to do with this,” Campbell said. “In the past we’ve gotten between 50,000 and 75,000 – I’m sure we were at that high end. It was just packed. I drove with the parade starting at Tienken and it was just unbelievable how many people were there.”
Grand marshals Steve and Nancy Benedettini were nominated to lead this year’s parade. Campbell said the title of grand marshal is given to community members who have “contributed significantly” with both their time and money in making their city a better place.
Both Steve and Nancy currently serve on the LifeBUILDERS board of directors. Founded in 2005, LifeBUILDERS is a non-profit organization devoted to serving the Northeast Detroit neighborhood Regent Park.
The parade also featured junior grand marshals Kristofer Saba and Kristen D’Souza, both of whom are local high school students. This marks the sixth year the parade has hosted junior marshals.
And it wouldn’t have been a true Christmas parade without the jolly fat man himself, Santa Claus. In addition to making his traditional float appearance, Santa and his wife Mrs. Claus posed for photos with parade-goers in a warming tent on the west side of Fourth Street and Rochester Road.
This was Campbell’s first year as president of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, which is responsible for organizing the parade. Campbell said the event was a great success thanks to the hard work and dedication of its volunteers.
“I’m absolutely stunned and amazed by the number of volunteers who have been involved in this parade for years,” she said. “We have people who have been helping with this parade for 30 and 40 years – it’s amazing to me. It speaks volumes about the community we live in.”
For those who still haven’t gotten their holiday celebration fill, don’t worry – Downtown Rochester will also host its first ever Caroling in the City event on Sunday, December 17. You can find a full list of upcoming events by visiting downtownrochestermi.com.