Presque Isle begins the holiday season in style with annual light parade

5 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Saturday evening became a showcase of area communities’ most creative holiday projects, as more than 50 themed floats made their way down Main Street during the 29th annual Holiday Light Parade.

As the 6 p.m. start time drew near, both sides of the street were packed with cars and hundreds of folks standing on the sidewalk, anxious for one of their favorite traditions of the season.

“We haven’t come to the parade for a few years, so this year we wanted to come and see all the beautiful lights and floats,” said Nicole LaPlante of Van Buren, who traveled to Presque Isle with her children Janick, 15, and John Ross, 12, and her mother, Rochelle LaPlante. “This is my mother’s first time coming.”

While the adult members of the family kept a close eye on the road leading to the University of Maine at Presque Isle — where floats were lining up for the start of the parade — the children kept themselves busy playing on a large pile of snow that had formed in front of the Rite Aid parking lot.

“I like seeing all the floats,” John Ross said, after thinking about what he likes most about holiday parades.

Among other folks who had traveled a longer distance to watch the Holiday Light Parade were Nicole Richardson and her children Shiloh, 11, and Shena, 8, all of Houlton. Like other children, Shiloh and Shena were bundled up with heavy winter coats, hats and gloves as the night air grew colder.

“I’m excited to see Santa Claus at the end,” Shena Richardson said.

The jolly character did make his annual appearance with Mrs. Claus in the parade, which is sponsored by the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce, but not before a long procession, led by officials from the Presque Isle Police Department, Maine State Police and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, slowly revealed a line of bright, often musical holiday floats.

UMPI — which later was awarded Best Nonprofit Float — dazzled the audience with their “Whoooo-ville” float — designed by students from the Studio 923 Art Club — that featured not only their mascot Hootie and volunteers dressed as snowy owls, but also a few characters from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“The Grinch,” aka UMPI President Ray Rice, was supposed to ride in his sleigh to “Whoooo-ville” while his dog “Max,” aka UMPI Chief Business Officer Ben Shaw, pulled him along. But “Max” had other ideas and often pushed “The Grinch” out of the sleigh, making his owner pull him down Main Street.

A wooden gazebo built by students was one of the many moving parts of the Caribou Technology Center’s Holiday Light Parade float, which won the Parade Champion Float later in the evening. The Presque Isle Holiday Light Parade was held on Saturday.
(Staff Photo/Melissa Lizotte)

As the parade procession drifted by, people expressed amazement over the variety of floats — such as Emera Maine’s “Storm Troopers”-themed float, which won Best Business Float; Cowett’s Auto Body with its giant gingerbread house; and the hood of a van decorated as “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” courtesy of Misty Meadow Organic Farms of Grand Isle, which featured children riding in a long “train” made of old fair ride seats.

But the largest float belonged to the Caribou Technology Center, based at Caribou High School, which began with a tractor trailer truck carrying students in a large truck bed and also included a pickup truck that hauled a brightly-lit Christmas tree and a sleigh — on which the Caribou pre-teen and junior pageant queens waved to the crowd.

The CTC spectacle also featured a truck with a flat screen TV playing a video advertising the center’s classes, a wide-load delivery truck, a giant bulldozer, a wooden gazebo — filled with more waving students — a John Deere tractor decorated with a North Pole theme, a school bus and a snow plow vehicle.

Students from CTC were responsible for building and putting together all parts of the unique float, which helped them earn the Parade Champion Float, the highest award of the evening. Other category winners included the Presque Isle Wesleyan Church, which received Best Faith-Based Float, and Little Miss and Junior Miss Mars Hill — Riley Prince, 13, and Charlie Pierce, 10 — who received Best General Float for their winter wonderland theme.

“We had a great turnout this year,” said Craig Anderson, one of the parade organizers. “The creativity of the floats this year was very impressive and we’re thankful that the community has made this a great holiday tradition.”