LEWISTON — Santa and Mrs. Claus made a triumphant arrival in the Twin Cities on Monday evening.
Thousands of youngsters and their parents braved the cold as they cheered a spectacular holiday parade followed by tree lightings at each city’s downtown plaza.
The “Parade of Lights” lived up to its billing with several large trucks decked out with strings of multi-colored lights covering a large part of the vehicles. Hundreds of children marched along in several groups. Floats from more than 30 civic or charitable organizations and businesses featured scenes in keeping with the parade theme, “Celebrating Cultural Holidays.”
Auburn sidewalks were lined with spectators as the floats moved up Main Street in Auburn to Festival Plaza where Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus presided at the Plaza’s tree lighting and mingled with young and old celebrators in the crowd. They stopped to pose for pictures and to listen attentively as wide-eyed boys and girls found themselves face to face with the famous couple from the North Pole.
One of those lucky children was Myia, who was near Santa’s sleigh as it was about to leave Festival Plaza to continue across Longley Bridge into Lewiston. Her mother lifted her to the sleigh and onto the seat between the red-suited couple. It was a special chance to whisper her wishes to the jolly bearded gentleman, but it all happened much too quickly. Myia said she didn’t tell Santa what was on her list, but it didn‘t matter because she said she had sent him a letter.
As the crowd headed for warm cars after the Auburn festivities, about 10 members of the Auburn Business Association cleared the tables where hot chocolate and doughnut holes had been given out.
Terry Kelsea, ABA president, said they passed out about 1,200 cups of hot chocolate in half an hour. The refreshments were donated by Bob Seavey of the Dunkin' Donuts restaurant on Center Street in Auburn. She said Seavey has given food for the tree-lighting events in recent years.
The parade proceeded to Dufresne Plaza on Lisbon Street in Lewiston, where Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald and Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte delivered brief remarks. A leader of the area’s Jewish community related the history of Judaism’s Festival of Lights, and Mayor Macdonald, assisted by Santa, led a countdown to the simultaneous lighting of the Lewiston Christmas tree and the Menorah.
The Salvation Army Canteen truck was on hand at the Lewiston plaza to serve refreshments.
A long line of children and parents moved along toward a bench where Santa and Mrs. Claus posed for photos with youngsters. Bree, a 7-year-old girl who lives in New Auburn, was among the first in line. She said she told Santa she wants anything related to horses, “but not real horses,” and she would like some Barbie items, too.
Winners of the parade floats were announced at the Dufresne Plaza event.
Gritty McDuff’s Pub took first place for business entries. The winning youth float was the Twin Cities’ Tiny Titans Hockey Association, and the best nonprofit float was entered by the Franco-American War Veterans.
Among the float entrants and parade units were Northeast Charter, Auburn Public Works, Auburn Water and Sewer District, Auburn Fire Department Engine 3, L-A Cab Service, Support Solutions, Community Credit Union, Alden M. Gayton American Legion Post 31, Girl Scout Troop 1524 and a Daisy Girl Scout group, Lewiston Public Works, the Edward Little High School Red Eddies Marching Band, and the historic Marshall’s Popcorn truck.
The Longley Bridge was closed to traffic during the parade’s journey between the cities, and traffic was detoured across the Lown Peace Bridge, formerly known as South Bridge. At times there was a solid line of vehicles coming from Lewiston through New Auburn and along Main Street, Auburn, to Court Street.