May 23, 2018
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Snow welcomes Santa to downtown Bangor at annual parade, tree lighting

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Snow flurries welcomed Santa and the thousands who flooded downtown late Saturday afternoon for the annual Festival of Lights Parade followed by the lighting of the holiday tree in West Market Square.

“It really felt like everyone was having fun,” Barbara McDade, chairwoman of the Bangor Rotary Parade Committee, said Sunday. “And, then, to have the snow arrive just as Santa Claus was coming down Main Street was just the icing on the cake. He brought snow and the whole holiday season to downtown Bangor.”

The Reilly family came to West Market Square prepared whether the snow began falling before the parade ended or not. By 4 p.m., 30 minutes before the parade was scheduled to start, Emily Reilly, 12, and her mother, Shelly Reilly, 46, had settled themselves on their fleece blankets on Central Street, their hot cocoa between them. Bob Reilly, 57, stood on the sidewalk behind them sipping from a cup.

“We come to the parade every year,” Emily Reilly said. “I love looking at all the floats. It’s a tradition.”

Shelly Reilly said they had been coming as a family since Emily was “in a carriage.”

For the Hartford family, this year’s parade was their first in Bangor.

“We just moved to town,” said Orville Hartford, 33, “but I grew up in Calais and always went to a parade there.”

Another parade-goer took a photo of Hartford, his wife, Julie, and the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Sarah.

“We’ll post it on our Facebook page,” Julie Hartford said, “so the grandparents can see us at the parade.”

Brad Ryder, the owner of Epic Sports at the corner of Central and Hammond streets, said the parade — along with having Santa’s Workshop downtown and the scavenger hunt held before the parade — had brought people downtown for much of Saturday afternoon.

“I’m hoping for more than a dusting,” Ryder said of the predicted snowstorm. “It would be great for our winter sports business.”

Bangor ended up with about 6 inches of snow overnight, the National Weather Service said Sunday.

McDade, who is the director of the Bangor Public Library, said Sunday that everything about the parade and the tree lighting went smoothly this year.

The Festival of Lights Parade drew 69 entrants, about two dozen more than in 2008, she said.

Winning participants in the parade by category were:

• Adult group — Step-in-Time Cloggers.

• Band — Pride of Madawaska Marching Band.

• Commercial group — Marita’s School of Dance.

• Nonprofit — American Cancer Society.

• Performing group — Top Hat II Dance Studio.

• Youth group — Central Maine Twirlers.

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