NORWAY/PARIS – Three-year-old Cole Dunham’s brown eyes widened into an expression of pure, mystified awe. Santa Claus was coming. Watching the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade for the first time Saturday, he had seen “horses, doggies, firetrucks,” and possibly elephants, lions, and tigers, too. In all the excitement it was hard for the rosy-cheeked little boy to remember. Nothing he had seen matched this, though.

Preceded by his elves, Santa and Mrs. Claus sat in Santa’s sleigh atop the bed of a truck. Cole turned to silently watch their approach, waved shyly as they went by and turned around to watch until Santa was out of sight. Only then did he whisper his thoughts on the morning’s events:


The parade, in its 29th year, stretched from Market Square in Paris to Advertiser Square in Norway, about 2.5 miles of marching in temperatures just above freezing. The biggest Christmas parade in Maine, this year’s event included at least 50 floats and groups of marchers, plus firetrucks from Norway, Paris, and the surrounding towns. Lined up before the parade began, participants spanned more than three-quarters of a mile.

Floats were judged on creativity and on how well they incorporated this year’s theme, “Bicentennial Christmas.” First place winner in the nonprofit category, the Oxford County Fair, featured period costumes and a horse-drawn carriage.

Tyler Allen, age 13, said that the ankle-length wool coat he wore as part of his 19th-century costume was a bit warmer than the winter coat he might normally don, but it didn’t keep him from hopping from foot to foot to keep warm. The women and girls he marched with were probably much colder in their full-length dresses.

Many participants and parade watchers warmed up at the Norway fire station after the parade, including guests of honor Santa and Mrs. Claus. The couple were transported to the Oxford Hills by Santa Visits Oxford, a group that brings Christmas to a few families who wouldn’t otherwise have one each year.

President Jim Lamb, of Oxford, said the group members aim “to bring Christmas to everybody.” Funded solely by donations, they bring Santa to various stores throughout the season, and every child who sits on his lap receives a small, donated gift.

Santa Claus said he looks forward to his trips to the Oxford Hills, making sure to schedule them well in advance each year. The parade, he added, “is the finest in the state, barring none.”

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