MERRIMACK — The holiday spirit was in full force on Sunday as residents gathered to celebrate the season with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
The dynamic duo took time out of their busy schedules to participate in the town's annual holiday parade, a festive event that has become an annual tradition for many area families.
"This is our 16th year marching in the parade," said Heather Sullivan, who was serving hot chocolate with other members of the Merrimack Friends and Families organization. "It is such a great time for the town of Merrimack to come together and celebrate the holidays. It is a tradition."
Participants and spectators were bundled up for the cold weather, which didn't deter their spirits on Sunday afternoon.
About 25 groups and nearly 300 marchers took part in the parade, which traveled south along the Daniel Webster Highway and concluded at Abbie Griffin Park.
"Everyone is ready for the holidays. This has been a great turnout, I think it is a great parade," said Kelly Valluzzi of Merrimack's Parks and Recreation Department.
With one less week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Valluzzi said people are beginning to feel the pressures of the holiday season. The parade, however, is an ideal opportunity for families to enjoy the festivities without all of the worries or deadlines, said Valluzzi.
Emma Shorette, 8, marched with other members of the Merrimack Girl Scout Troop 20113.
"I love seeing all of my family and friends during the parade," said Shorette, adding this is her third year marching in the event.
For others, Sunday's parade was a first time event, which they hope will become an annual tradition.
Neil and Michelle Chapman of Merrimack brought their son and daughter, 6 and 3 respectively, to march in the parade with their youngest child's preschool.
"We just got back from Santa's Village yesterday, so we are definitely in the holiday spirit," said Neil Chapman. Sunday was the second time in two days that his children had a chance to see Santa Claus, so that was an exciting opportunity for the siblings, he said.
Following the parade, spectators gathered at Abbie Griffin Park for the lighting of the town's Christmas tree. Mr. and Mrs. Claus were also on hand to meet with children and hear their holiday wishes.
Neil Chapman's son had a special holiday request this year, as he is hoping that a globe will be hiding underneath the tree on Christmas morning.
For children who may have missed the weekend visit by Santa, the Merrimack Parks and Recreation Department is still accepting registrations for its Santa Calling program until Friday.
Any children in preschool through second grade who would like to receive a surprise phone call from Santa at the North Pole may fill out a registration form, which is available at www.merrimacknh.gov. email@example.com