By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—It may sound unbelievable, but Brockton Garden Club member Judy Burnett stunned those around her when she said Saturday’s 25th annual Greater Brockton Holiday Parade was the first parade she had ever attended or been a part of—at least that she can remember in 61 years.
“I’ve never been to a parade,” Burnett said matter-of-factly before she and members of the Garden Club walked the parade route dressed in vintage 1930s and 1940s style hats, raccoon and fur coats and leading a trailer depicting a homey Christmas scene, including a decorated Christmas tree, fireplace with stockings, and a rocking chair.
Burnett, 61, said when she was too young to remember she may have been brought to a parade by her parents, but she cannot recall from memory ever attending a parade, and was pleasantly surprised by the thousands of spectators who lined the parade route as well as the thousands of students, parents, coaches, businesses, and a host of local organizations who marched through the streets from Legion Parkway around the Main Street area and ending at City Hall.
“I’m impressed,” Burnett said. (Pictured at right) “This was a really good parade, and what a crowd,” she said.
For its 25th holiday parade celebration, organizers highlighted those who began the parade 25 years ago.
Leading the parade as grand marshals were Ugo Paparo, and family members of John Dreystadt, who died in March at age 77.
Also leading the numerous marching bands, cheerleaders and antique cars was the only Latino heavyweight boxing champion John "the Quietman" Ruiz.
Paparo and Dreystadt met as members of the Rotary Club more than 25 years ago, and in 1986 held the first parade in the downtown area to spark more customers in the city center.
Dreystadt’s wife Sondra, better known as “Sonnie,” said she was nominated by Paparo and the other Dreystadt family members to speak for all of them during closing ceremonies at City Hall, which included the lighting of the city’s holiday tree and the announcement of the 2nd annual James Edgar Service Award.
Sonnie Dreystadt said her husband John would have been proud of Saturday’s parade—many believing it was a record breaker for attendance--and believed he was with everyone in spirit even if not in body.
“He's here with us. I can feel it," Dreystadt said.(Pictured above, right with James Edgar Award winner Kristina Lutz. Inset, John Dreystadt)
Kevin Brower, business service officer at HarborOne Credit Union, one of the parade’s sponsors said the 60 degree temperature Saturday likely helped bring the crowd to record-breaking numbers, and pointed out a little history.
“The parade started out being held on Friday nights,” Brower said.
Brower unexpectedly had to take on Master of Ceremonies duties Saturday because usual parade leaders John and Paul Merian, co-owners of Tuxedos by Merian, had to miss the parade after Paul took a terrible spill from a ladder cleaning his gutters Friday.
The Merian brothers also provide narration and commentary on Brockton Community Access, the city’s local cable station.
Brower said once word of Merian’s fall spread, everyone involved came together to help and make sure the parade would go on Saturday as planned.
“They would have wanted it to go on without a hitch,” Brower said.
Merian is listed in stable condition at Boston Medical Center.
One of the highlights of the ceremony after the parade was the acceptance of the James Edgar Service Award by Kristina Lutz, who helped spearhead reconstruction and fundraising efforts to bring new playgrounds to the Brookfield and Howard Elementary Schools.
Lutz is also a mother, wife, paraprofessional at Brookfield School and is a volunteer basketball coach.
Lutz said she was proud of the award, but pointed to many others who helped bring the new playgrounds to the schools.
“This wasn’t just me,” Lutz said. “Many, many, many people went into this,” she said.