FARMINGTON — Hundreds of people dressed for inclement weather lined both sides of Saturday morning’s route for the 38th annual Chester Greenwood Day Parade.
Many wore earmuffs in honor of Chester Greenwood, who, about 140 years ago at the age of 15 invented ear guards, albeit more mundane than today’s colorful and zany varieties.
“I thought it was cool,” Ashlyn Macomber, 9, of Wilton, said of learning the Greenwood history and seeing all kinds of earmuffs.
Holiday movies was the parade theme. The parade and day of activities honor Chester Greenwood, who was portrayed by Clyde Ross.
An estimated 200 children participated in the parade, riding the many floats or wading through snowy, icy slush on streets with different organizations. They joined adults in waving at crowds, doled out candy and happily shouted, “Merry Christmas!”
“It was a beautiful parade full of a lot of kids, which is what we want,” Ross said.
He rode on a large float with author Megan McCarthy of New York, who wrote a children’s book about Greenwood called “Earmuffs for Everyone.” She did a book-signing later in the day at the Devaney, Doak & Garrett bookstore.
Although the parade is faithfully held despite the weather, usually the wind is blowing a gale and temperatures are subzero or just above zero.
On Saturday, the elements reigned supreme. The day began with snow, changed over to sleet, then freezing rain and rain, but temperatures remained below freezing. Plow and sand trucks removed much of the mess for the parade, which began at 11 a.m.
Ross said it had been a while since he could remember participating in a Chester Greenwood Day parade in freezing rain.
“Usually, we have the wind and the cold weather, but we haven ‘t had the inclemency of the weather,” he said. “But, you know, that brings us to the reality of what Maine is and what we’re all about. And the earmuffs, you know, were an invention for inclement weather.”
Ross said it wasn’t bad to ride on a float under the pelting wintry mix.
“But when you turn onto Main Street from South Street, you run into the wind,” he said. “It’s right there in your face and you know you’re in Maine. You know you’re on Main Street.”
A color guard led the parade up Main Street toward the downtown. The Greenwood family float was followed by several children and coaches with the Western Maine United Soccer Team.
Santa walked with children dressed as snowmen holding short poles over their shoulders with giant snowflakes attached to the wooden dowels. A Titcomb Mountain float sported giant earmuffs. They were followed by several dogs on leashes.
A Girl Scout troop dressed as Whoville children walked with their Whoville float while laughing at the antics of a tall Grinch riding in the bed of a bright-red pickup. They were followed by the Mallett School children, teachers and parents walking together. A Rotary International float wore giant earmuffs and sported several waving children.
They were followed by members of the Smiling Goat Precision Juggling Corps, which performed several routines and then ran while juggling. Behind them came the Foster Technology Center float followed by Autumn Clair of Chesterville leading a pair of large sheep. Several students and an instructor wearing chain saw safety gear performed demonstrations with chain saws.
One float sported every main character from the “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown” movie, including Snoopy and Woodstock. Several fire departments and emergency responders brought up the rear.
Macomber said her favorite character in the parade was The Grinch. There were about four or five green gnarly grinches both tall and small on a like number of floats.
Macomber said she was supposed to be dancing in the parade with Broadway Academy, but their participation was canceled, so she watched the parade instead.
Alexis Walker, 12, her brother Logan, 10, and sister Abigail, 5, all of Wilton, rode with several children in the RSU 9 Mount Blue Schoolbus, which was artistically decorated with Peanuts characters and one giant earmuff.
“It was really fun because we got to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to everyone,” Alexis Walker said afterward. “
“I liked seeing people that I knew and just making people smile, because like when we told them ‘Merry Christmas,’ they would just say it right back and smile,” Logan Walker said.
Brinda Rollins of Wilton, the Walker children’s grandmother, said that even though the weather was messy, it was much warmer than last year.
“It was fun,” Rollins said. “I liked how everybody was happy even though it was raining. They all had a good time.”
Ross spoke highly of the businesses that pitch in and helped pull off the highly successful, crowd-pleasing event.
“Participation from the businesses is incredible,” he said. “They do it year after year after year and, you know, we couldn’t ask for better support for the day, and even with the weather that it is, it’s Maine.”