Spectators wearing scarves, gloves and warm hats crowded along Bergenline Avenue on Dec. 9 in what many see as North Hudson’s version of the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
This was North Hudson Firefighters Association and Fire Officers’ 18th annual Santa Parade, which celebrates the beginning of winter holiday with the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.
The parade started on 85th Street and marched south along Bergenline from North Bergen through West New York to 32nd Street in Union City.
Although parades are common here during the summer months, this is one of the few winter parades.
Organized in conjunction with the municipalities of North Bergen, West New York, Weehawken, Guttenberg, and Union City, the parade featured marching bands, a host of floats, fire trucks, a variety of characters from children’s TV and other programming, and, of course, Santa.
Fire vehicles from outside Hudson County also took part. While the Union City High School band played holiday favorites, cheerleaders from the West New York Recreation Department marched through their routines despite the cold.
Motorcycle police led the parade.
An annual event
The Santa Parade is a yearly tradition sponsored by the North Hudson Fire Unions Charitable Foundation. Not only does it bring a festive celebration to the neighborhood, it raises funds for local schools and children’s groups.
Former West New York Mayor Sal Vega said the parade started when the fire departments of five towns combined into the North Hudson Regional department in 1999.
“William Renner started it. This became the first thing they did together as regional department,” Vega said.
The NHRFR Christmas Parade became an annual tradition. Prior to the regionalization, all the local municipal firehouses used to host their own parades or community events for the town children during the holiday season. The parade was suspended briefly when Renner retired. There was no parade held in 2012.
Renewed in 2013, with a route that took it though Weehawken for the first time, the parade returned to its Bergenline Avenue route in 2014.
At last weekend’s event, along with local law enforcement professionals – many wearing Santa hats – were members of the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office. But some of the floats included local officials such as one featuring Guttenberg Mayor Wayne Zitt.
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