NORWICH — The Norwich Christmas classic, the Parade of Lights, will return to Broad Street at 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 26 with dozens of floats from local businesses and organizations, the eighth annual Chobani product giveaway, and a special visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
The Parade of Lights has been a staple of the Norwich holiday season since the early 1980s, when it was started by the Pennysaver, Evening Sun, and local radio station in cooperation with the Norwich Merchants Association, according to Pennysaver and Evening Sun publisher Dick Snyder.
The event went strong for over three decades, thanks to the support of local businesses and organizations.
"If it wasn’t for the financial support of all types and sizes of business and organizations the parade never could have lasted so long," said Snyder. "Each year the list of supporters and participants was long, but for me NBT was a key partner, and in the last five years or so Chobani has made their presence known with their tremendous yogurt give away in the park after the parade."
Unfortunately, in 2020 the parade had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following year it returned, but Snyder said it was time to let another group take the reins.
"We decided it was time to pass the torch on to others, to not only keep the parade going, but to make it even better," he explained. "With this in mind, I reached out to our friends at Chobani, who then reached out to the Norwich BID, and they jointly have agreed to take up the stewardship of this Norwich tradition."
The parade is now organized by the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), who organized their first Parade of Lights in 2021, and sponsored by Chobani. While last year's parade was a showstopper, with hundreds of area residents packing Broad Street sidewalks, BID Board Member Mindy Chawgo said this year's parade is even bigger and better.
"It's really quite diverse this year," she said. "Not so many schools, but a lot of businesses, a lot of clubs that have kind of come out of the woodwork that want to be part of it this year. So a lot of different things that people are going to see this year."
Parade participants include Girl Scout groups, Toys for Tots, NBT Bank, several area nonprofits, local construction and trucking companies, the Norwich Marching Band, the Bologna Bagpipers, the Norwich Police Department, several Chenango County fire departments, and much more.
According to Chawgo, the amount of participants in the parade have doubled this year. Plus, spectators can expect a dazzling display of decorated floats, as participants this year have gone all out to decorate parade vehicles.
"Its very exciting to see the enthusiasm of everybody. Everybody that has contacted me has been so excited to participate, and I think you’re going to notice the floats that I have and the themes that they are going for are much more extravagant this year," she said. "It’s not just going to be a trailer behind a truck that’s decorated; They’re all going with these great, extravagant themes this year, which is going to make it so much more fun for everybody this year to come and see. It’s going to be really fun for everybody in the parade, and everybody watching the parade. I think it’s going to be great."
Finishing up the parade will be Santa and Mrs. Claus traveling down Broad Street in a horse drawn carriage from the Waite Family, who will drop them off at Santa's Igloo in front of East Park.
Families are invited to stop by the igloo and get a photo with Santa, and the evening will kick off this season's Santa's Igloo schedule, which will be announced by the BID at a later date.
Also following the parade will be the eighth annual Chobani giveaway, but Chobani Senior Director of Internal Communication and Community Impact Jeff Genung said this year will feature not just yogurt, but Chobani creamer as well.
"It's our eighth annual community yogurt giveaway. Actually, we’re saying 'products,' because we’re not just giving away yogurt. We’re also going to have our creamer product on hand to give away. So everybody will get a case of yogurt and a carton of our creamer," he said.
The giveaway will begin in East Park after the parade concludes. Genung emphasized there will be plenty of products to go around, so he encourages residents to watch and enjoy the parade before heading to the park for the giveaway.
This year marks Chobani's second year serving as the parade sponsor. Genung said the partnership with the BID was a no brainer, as the parade and the Chobani giveaways have gone hand in hand for so long and Chobani is always willing to lend a hand to the community.
"It’s a good strong partnership between the two organizations, and we both have the best interests of the community at heart," said Genung. "The two events go hand in hand since we started it. We’ve done the yogurt giveaway for eight years and it’s always taken place right after the parade, and when we saw the parade needed a little extra help to keep it going we’re like, yeah, of course. The two things are symbiotic with each other."
Chawgo said she is incredibly grateful for the support of Chobani, area businesses and organizations that participate in the parade, and the hundreds of community members who pack the streets and make all the preparation worthwhile.
"Chobani makes it so easy for me to put on a great parade. They make it so easy to do what I want to and put my creative touch on it while they back me which is so nice. I mean, they’re just wonderful to work with, and everybody that’s participating is so excited, which makes me excited," said Chawgo. "So I think it’s been much easier this year and will continue to be easier. I think if you surround yourself with these amazing people, it makes anything easy. So I’m very fortunate."
She encourages area residents to come downtown on Saturday to enjoy time with family, make memories, and enjoy the beautiful Parade of Lights.
"I’m just excited to have everybody downtown and have everybody together, and I hope everybody just enjoys the holiday and enjoys being together downtown, and looks at everything with open eyes and caring and thankful eyes, and sees that everybody really worked hard to be down there and celebrate for everybody on the sidelines," Chawgo said.
"It’s so nice to have free activities that you can go to as a family. I know a lot of it is just making memories. I mean, this was our childhood memory, was going to the parade," she added. "I hope everybody just celebrates each other and knows that we can gather again, and be safe, and be there for each other, because I think together we’re going to be stronger. So I just hope that everybody has a really good time.
"That’s all I really want, is just all of us to be together for this holiday, and I think it’ll be a great night for our community. I’m really looking forward to it."