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The snow at last year’s annual Torchlight Parade only seemed to add to the holiday spirit. This year’s parade comes to Old Saybrook on Saturday, Dec. 8. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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Hearkening back to Colonial times when the sounds of fifes and drums would summon townspeople to the village commons, Old Saybrook’s 48th Torchlight Parade will take place on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 6 p.m. In addition to local marchers (everyone is invited to bring a lantern and participate), more than 25 fife and drum corps in period costume are expected from across Connecticut and the Northeast, said organizer Sandy Clark.
Reenactment militia units will participate as well, some of which will be firing muskets. The 5th Connecticut Infantry, the 6th Connecticut Regiment, and the Lebanon Town Militia have all committed to attend. As it does every year, the 5th Connecticut Infantry will lead off the parade along with town officials, including Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl P. Fortuna, Jr., who plans, as in years past, to dress as George Washington.
“The Torchlight Parade is one of the most fun days and nights of the year in Old Saybrook,” Fortuna said. “People from all over the state come into town to enjoy our downtown and the festivities. The bars and restaurants are full and there is just so much good cheer going around.
“This will be my eighth parade and, from what I can tell, the crowds continue to get bigger every year,” he continued. “I enjoy participating more and more each year.”
There will be floats and dance groups from many local businesses, organizations, services (including the fire department), radio stations, and Bikes for Kids.
“The street will be packed with people,” said Clark, who encouraged spectators to carry battery-powered candles to add to the festivities.
This year’s Christmas parade will be the first without its creator and long-time lead organizer, Bill Reid, who died in January. The parade is organized by the Alumni of the Colonial Saybrook Fifes and Drums, consisting of two of Reid’s grandsons, Kenny Reid and Chris Reid, as well as Sandy and Barry Clark.
In a demonstration of New England spirit, the parade carries on in all manner of weather. In 48 years, said Clark, it has been canceled only once. Last year’s parade took place during the first snowstorm of the year.
“Last year was kind of a nasty day,” said Clark, noting that the weather didn’t stop the Travel Channel from filming it for a special it plans to air this year about Christmas celebrations across America.
The parade will begin on Main Street near Coulter Street, by Liberty Bank. Members of the community who wish to participate by carrying torches should show up by 5:45 p.m. and make themselves known to the organizers, said Clark. The parade will begin promptly at 6 p.m. and end near the firehouse.
Awards will be presented to the best float and best marching unit. The winners were traditionally selected by Bill Reid; this year they will be chosen by the parade organizing committee, Clark said.
As it has for the past 30 years, the Rotary Club will set up a tent on the Town Green, near the firehouse, for the public to enjoy cookies and hot chocolate at the end of the parade.
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