Article by Sam Dostaler
Each year as Thanksgiving week comes to a close, the Essex, Connecticut community comes together. As the sun sets on the Sunday following Thanksgiving hundreds of people; families, friends – young and old – flock to Main Street in the picture book town for the annual Trees in the Riggings Community Carol Sing & Boat Parade.
The parade begins at 4:30 p.m., but the streets begin to fill in around 4 with some people putting out chairs, while other stand in groups grasping a hot drink. Laughter fills the air as everyone soaks in the atmosphere while waiting for the parade to begin.
Each year that we go, we stand in front of the Griswold Inn, a little bit more than half way down Main Street. The location is the perfect spot for purchasing a hot drink at the Essex Coffee and Tea Company, visiting Toys Ahoy or stepping in the Griswold Inn for a drink at the bar as we wait.
Just after dark you begin to hear the sounds of the parade in the distance with the Sailing Masters of 1812 Fife and Drum Corps leading the way followed by the antique cars and then the Christmas carolers. As each group passes by they pause for a brief moment in front of the inn to perform. Once the Christmas carolers roll past the crowd files in behind singing loudly as the parade continues down to the edge of the Connecticut River for the Trees in the Rigging.
As the crowd huddles on the dock for warmth, boats big and and small, pass by showcasing their holiday lights as the crowd cheers. In the background the public address announcer describes each boat and who is sailing it. The boats take one lap, then another and just as the evening seems to be wrapping up Santa Clause appears making his annual appearance.
While the families with young children make their way to the Connecticut River Museum (admission is free during the event) to meet Santa we make our way back up the street.
The shops and restaurants are emptier now making it easy to stop for a bite to eat or a drink. As you head to your car the sounds of holiday cheer can be heard up and down Main Street and as you drive away you leave with a smile knowing that you have kicked off the holiday season in style.
-Featured photo courtesy of Connecticut River Museum