Thousands of people lined State Street Saturday evening for the annual Gazette Holiday Parade, a longtime Schenectady tradition that signals the start of the holiday season in the Electric City.
The theme this year was “Movies,” and attendance was helped by unseasonably warm weather. Families packed the sidewalks, standing or sitting in camping chairs or directly on the sidewalk.
Several area school bands participated in the parade, including the Mohonasen High School Warrior Marching Band and the Amsterdam High Scchool Marching Rams. Nearly every area fire department was represented, as were dozens of area businesses and organizations.
The movie-themed floats this year depicted scenes from holiday films such as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Elf” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” as well as non-holiday favorites like “Frozen,” “Up” and “Grease.”
A float devoted to the movie “Titanic” featured someone dressed as an iceberg that would occasionally crash into a trailer decked out as a cruise ship.
Chris Seahorn grew up in Schenectady and fondly remembers going to the holiday parade as a kid.
“I grew up here, so 50 years,” said Seahorn, when asked how long he’s been coming to the parade. He and his wife, Lynn, live in Amsterdam now but return to the parade every year.
“It’s the nostalgia,” said Seahorn. “There’s so much history on this street, so it’s nice to come back here.”
Zana Green lives in Bayonne, New Jersey, but came to the parade on the advice of friends who live in Schenectady and as an alternative to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan next week.
Asked what she liked about the parade, Green said, “The spirit, and it’s a night parade. It’s awesome.”
Green’s friend, Amanda Haley, lives in Schenectady and attends the parade most years.
“It’s the sense of community and it gets me in the holiday spirit, the spirit of Schenectady,” said Haley. “Now you know it’s the holidays.”
Maureen Newfeld of Niskayuna brought her 3-year-old daughter, Hadley, who could not stop moving to the beat as different marching bands and drum corps filed up State Street.
“The kids have a great time listening to the different music coming through and identifying all the different characters,” said Newfeld.
Newfeld said this was the second time she and her family attended the holiday parade, and that organizers did a good job of keeping the event fresh with a movie theme that brought up-to-date animated favorites like “Despicable Me,” with its iconic “Minions,” characters her daughter was able to recognize.
“It doesn’t feel stale,” Newfeld said.
When asked what her favorite part of the parade was, little Hadley Newfeld exclaimed “Dancing! Jump, jump, jump!” before turning her attention back to a passing marching band.
Her mom added, “She likes anything with music, because she’s clearly a little bopper and dancer.”
Alisha Griffis got to watch her daughter, Jacie, march for the first time in the parade with the Merritt Dance Center. Griffis remembers marching in the parade herself years ago when she was involved in the center as a girl.
Jacie, 7, said her favorite part of marching was twirling her baton, and that she wasn’t the least bit nervous to be in front of such a big crowd.
Griffis, who lives in Esperance, said the parade hasn’t changed a bit from when she was dancing in it — and that’s a good thing.
“Nothing’s changed with the parade. Nothing’s changed with the [Merritt Dance Center],” said Griffis. “It’s just like I remember it: a good, old-time tradition.”