Ellen Mottola lives a double life every November.
During the day, she works as executive administrative assistant for the Ballston Spa Business and Professional Association. At other times, she’s organizing the annual Ballston Spa Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting.
This year’s outdoor party will be held Friday from 6:30 p.m. until about 7:45 p.m. Mottola — with help from Jim Whittredge and Donna Avery — has been signing up merry marchers.
Other help comes from the parade’s sponsors, Ballston Spa National Bank, Saratoga County Fair, Curtis Lumber, Adirondack Trust Company and WAM Commercial Associates.
Mottola loves the excitement that comes with the old-fashioned parade.
Q: How long has the parade been going on?
A: The association itself has been around for 30 years, this is our 30th anniversary. The parade, I think, has been going on for at least 26 of those years. We start at the north end of town, at the South Street School. It goes up Milton Avenue through the middle of town and ends up at Wiswall Park, which is on Front Street, right in the heart of the village.
Q: What are the main attractions this year?
A: The thing you have to know about Ballston Spa’s parade is everyone does the Victorian Walk and things like that. Our parade is decidedly small-town, “It’s a Wonderful Life” vibe, so it’s homemade floats, seven or eight fire companies, lots of kids, lots of kids on the floats throwing candy, which is always a big hit with everybody. We don’t have a lot of bands that march, usually people just have music coming off their floats.
It’s very “anybody can join in” kind of thing, and I think that’s what the charm of it is. We don’t always get a grand marshal every year, the very special grand marshal for us this year is Lucas DeFabio, he’s about 5 years old and has Menkes disease, which is a deadly genetic disorder. He’s one of the most joyful little boys you will ever meet. He has a great smile. We wanted to honor him and his family because they’re very strong and a very inspirational kind of family.
Q: What will the floats be like?
A: We’re going to have a car from the Malta Speedway. We usually have some of the local sports teams, some of the school teams, on floats. The garden club is doing a float. We have several pageant girls, we have Miss Outstanding New York Teen and several of the Saratoga County Fair princesses joining us.
Santa to appear
Q: How hard is it to get Santa Claus to make an appearance in Ballston Spa?
A: We have the same Santa, he’s been doing it for the last 10, 15 years. He rides on the last fire truck; he’s at the end of the parade. The fire truck pulls up in the front of the park and the tree and they put up the bucket, they do the countdown and he lights the tree. Our tree, which was a tree growing in Wiswall Park, was blown over in a storm in June. So we lost our Christmas tree. We’re bringing in a live tree, a 35-foot tree, for the first time in years. It’s been a little bit traumatic.
Q: What keeps people coming back to your parade.
A: It’s generations now. I brought my kids when they were little and I know parents who are bringing their kids now were brought as children as well. Our town is a very close-knit town, it’s not a very big town, I think we double the size of the population when this parade happens — just because it’s heart-warming, it’s not commercial, just very much a community-based kind of a celebration. Friday night is also our First Friday, we do it every month, so our whole downtown, all the stores and the restaurants and museums and little art galleries are all open. It brings people down into our village.
A logistical challenge
Q: What is the toughest part about putting the parade together?
A: The toughest thing is just the logistics of getting everyone lined up, diverting the traffic around the staging area. Not everybody is in the happiest mood when they’re on their ways home and have to be re-routed. Once we’re under way, it’s a piece of cake. It works like clockwork. It’s just getting everybody organized and off and relying on the goodwill of the people around us to put up with a little bit of inconvenience that evening.
Q: Have you ever had snow for the parade?
A: We’ve had flurries for the parade. We’ve never had a snowstorm. The only year we had to postpone it, we had a freak thunderstorm about four years ago. It was in the 60s and we had a thunderstorm come right through at 6 p.m., all the power went out in the village and we had to postpone it until the next weekend. But we’ve never been snowed out, knock on wood.
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.