Ray Novack has never actually seen the Beverly Holiday Parade. As the former director of the Beverly High School marching band (he retired last year), Novack has marched in 35 consecutive parades. At yesterday’s 65th annual parade, he sat atop a silver Mustang convertible as the grand marshal, waving to the thousands of residents who lined Cabot, Elliott and Rantoul Streets, braving the chilly winds to welcome Beverly’s official start of the giving season.
“Usually we (the BHS marching band) are at the end of the parade,” Novack said. “This year, I’m at the beginning, the first time (in 35 years) I haven’t marched, so it’s nice to ride in such an esteemed place of honor. Maybe next year, I’ll actually watch it from the street.”
Novack was one of several hundred participants in this year’s parade, the biggest ever with 50 entries and floats, according to Wendy Kelley, vice president of the parade committee and assistant vice president of Salem Five Bank.
The Kora Shrine Log Rollers from Maine came again to drive their miniature log trucks and raise money for burn victims. The Girl and Boy Scouts were also on hand, along with librarians, firefighters, dance groups, Little Leaguers, Red Cross representatives, Momball team members, mayors and marching bands. Oh, and that guy with the white beard and red suit.
Volunteers from Beverly Bootstraps — this year’s designated charity for the parade — collected canned foods in shopping carts, and other service and school groups collected donations in Christmas bags while tossing candy to children. The parade, which originally began as a way to start the holiday shopping season in downtown Beverly, is now one of the longest-running holiday parades in Massachusetts, Kelley said, and a tradition for many area families.
Tom and Tracey Vaccaro of Beverly have been bringing their sons to the parade for the past four years. Tom, 53, who grew up in Beverly, remembers coming to the parade every year as a child, and sees it as a great way to mark the holiday season.