SOMERVILLE, NJ - Hundreds of volunteer firefighters and first responders from throughout the state will festoon their emergency vehicles with strings of lights and blow-up cartoon characters for the V!II annual Holiday Lights Parade Saturday, Dec. 7th, beginning at dusk.
Sponsored by the Somerville Fire Department, the trucks and their crews will begin to arrive early in the afternoon at the staging area on Veterans Memorial Drive to decorate their rigs for the rolling light show, eager to escort Santa Claus down Main Street and through the side streets of the borough.
Veteran firefighters Dave Bowden and Joe Rodriguez have been the organizers of the parade since its inception; they brought the idea to Somerville after participating in a similar Celebration of Lights parade sponsored by the Wallington Fire Department.
Located in Bergen County, Wallington will not host the parade this year, with many of the fire departments from northern New Jersey that have participated in that event contacting Somerville to sign up for Saturday's parade.
Somerville Fire Chief Marc Pelligrino expects there will more pieces of apparatus in the Somerville parade as a result. As of Wednesday afternoon, 51 units from 13 towns, including Tarrytown, NY, had signed up. Pellegrino expects dozens more.
Many of the firefighters, some of whom drive in from out-of-state, will wire up their trucks with sound systems to play Christmas carols and holiday songs.
They’ll pass by scores of homes decked out and trimmed with lights and other decorations that serve as the backdrop for front yard Yuletide parties.
Several thousand people are expected to line the sidewalks to catch a glimpse of Santa and his entourage as it moves along Main Street before wending its way into the side streets and neighborhoods, horns blaring, lights flashing and sirens wailing.
The parade makes its way back to the firehouse at the corner of East Main Street and Veterans Memorial Drive where the firemen and passengers in their vehicles will warm up with some hot chocolate.
Prizes will be awarded for the best decorated vehicles and houses along the parade route. For the first time this year, the contest for Best Decorated Homes has been extended to residences not on the parade route, according to Pelligrino. Firefighters will visit homes that have been registered for the contest prior to the parade.
Homeowner registrations will be accepted through midnight on Thursday, Dec. 5th online at Sfdholidaylights57@gmail.com.
Parking is free in all municipal parking lots, with stores and restaurants in the downtown district open before, during and after the parade.