The Annual Lynn Christmas Parade lights up the city streets every Christmas Eve. Floats filled with joyful, familiar faces and a grand finale featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus on their sleigh have made this tradition a Lynn classic for the past 26 years. This year, however, will be the first that the parade will be without co-founder Rich “Richie” Viger, who passed away earlier this year.
Now it is up to Jay Walsh to put together the annual parade that will feature new floats, a refurbished sleigh, and a fitting tribute to the man who started it all.
Viger, along with John Walsh, Jay’s father, from John’s Oil started the parade in 1986 after seeing the success of the Saugus Christmas parade. Winding down 23 miles of Lynn, the parade has grown from just a few trucks the first year to having over 100 floats and cars fill the parade route.
When Viger passed suddenly in July, Janet Melanson, one of the organizers of the Lynn Christmas Parade, gave Walsh the news that Viger had wanted him to take over the parade if anything happened to him.
“I was kind of shocked because I didn’t know anything about it,” said Walsh. “Richie was a bigger than life character, that’s just who he was. So obviously I felt happy to take it on, but also a sense of how are we going to this without him? Now we just have to move forward.”
Walsh has been working since January to make sure this year’s parade pays tribute to a man who dedicated his life bringing holiday cheer to generations of Lynn families.
“The whole time when I or any collective group of us made a decision on the parade we thought, what would Richie do?” Walsh said.
Finding a tribute to honor their founder was one of the first tasks Walsh and his parade committee tackled.
“We didn’t want to put something in the parade honoring Richie that was solemn. Richie wasn’t that way,” Walsh said.
Walsh thought there would be no better way to honor the man who only wanted to bring joy and cheer to the people of Lynn at Christmas than to name the parade after him. As of this year the parade will now be known as “Rich Viger’s Lynn Parade.” The name will make its debut on a banner featuring a cartoon Santa drawn just for the parade that will hang on the sleigh at the end. The parade committee also started selling bracelets with “Remembering Richie” engraved on the back of charms. All money raised from the bracelet sales will go straight to funding the parade.
This year’s parade will have the same traditional feel as years past, but there will be some minor changes. Walsh constructed two new floats that will debut on Christmas Eve. Fans of the show “Duck Dynasty” will be thrilled to know that a new duck-hunting float will parade through the streets of Lynn for the first time. Walsh also constructed a High Rock Tower float to honor the city’s rich history, something he would like to see continue in future years.
“We want to keep things fresh so we would like to see more new floats based on the city,” he said.
One of the biggest changes can be found on Santa’s float at the end of the parade. Walsh re-painted each reindeer by hand; even giving Rudolph a new, shiny nose. The crew at Rick’s Auto Collision took Santa’s sleigh back to their shop to give it a bright red coat of paint.
As Walsh and his crew of tireless helpers put the final touches on the local tradition, he hopes that more people than ever come out on Christmas Eve to see the parade.
“The best thing about it is it’s generational,” Walsh says. “People who saw it when they were kids are now bringing their kids out to see it. What’s better than that!
This year it will be easier than ever to find the parade. If you “Like” the “Official Lynn, MA Christmas Parade” page on Facebook you will be able to see live status updates of where the parade will be all night long.
If you want to put a car or float in this year’s parade it is not too late. You can contact Jay Walsh by phone at (781)-___ or by messaging them on the parade’s Facebook page. There’s only one stipulation to entering a float or car in the parade for Jay Walsh.
“We want it to be as festive, bright, and colorful as possible!”