Lynn’s 26th Christmas Eve parade rolled through the city Monday night, with tributes to the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and twin brothers who were struck by a vehicle in Austin Square in September.
More than 100 vehicles, including firetrucks, boats, tow trucks, antique cars, and floats, were set to traverse a route of 22 miles, taking about five hours from beginning to end, said parade volunteer Jordan Avery, 19, of Lynn.
“Salem has Halloween, but Lynn has Christmas Eve,” Avery said.
Rich Viger, 52, of Lynn, spearheads the parade committee.
“Twenty-six years ago, we saw Saugus doing it and we said, ‘They can do it, why can’t we?’ ” Viger said.
The parade, which was first held in 1986, included 115 vehicles this year, which lined up at Boston and Summer streets. The route follows Myrtle Street to Holyoke Street and down O’Callaghan Way.
“It’s a long parade,” Avery said, adding, “the slower the better, they say. Let the people enjoy it.”
Viger said he planned to drive a six-wheeled dump truck in the parade, decorated with Christmas lights and an inflatable space shuttle.
“People look forward to it,” he said. “They come out in droves. Seeing the smiles on people’s faces, that’s what it’s all about.”
Volunteers took to the streets at 9 a.m. Monday, putting up “no parking” signs and readying the route, he said. Streets were shut down around 3:30 p.m., as residents began to stake out spots.
“We have thousands and thousands of people lining the streets,” Avery said. “Everywhere you go, there’s parties along the way.”
The floats come from businesses across the North Shore, Lynn residents, and various fire departments, he said. There is only one rule: Don’t bring a dark float.
“The goal is a lot of lights,” Avery said. “Our mission is to bring cheer and happiness to the people of the city.”
Bringing up the rear of the parade is always a retired Lynn fire truck from 1979, carrying Santa and Mrs. Claus.
This year, the truck was decorated to honor Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the site of a mass shooting earlier this month. The truck was festooned with balloons and ribbons in the school’s colors, Avery said.
“We can’t forget them, especially this time of year,” Viger said.
Monday’s parade followed a wreath-laying ceremony to honor Dillon and Riley McManus, 20-year-old twin brothers who were hit by a Hummer just outside of their Boston Street home while walking home from a 7-Eleven.
Dillon was killed. Riley was in a coma following the crash.
The parade’s Santa and Mrs. Claus gave a wreath to Riley and his parents, Gerry and Colleen McManus.
“It brought honor to our family in regard to who Dillon was. We thought of it as a thoughtful, memorable, humbling time,” Gerry McManus said in a phone interview Monday night. “It was just an honor. I kind of wish he was around to see it.”
Sarah Beliveau, who was struck and killed at the same intersection several years ago, was also honored Monday.
Aside from the somber aspects of this year’s events, Avery said he eagerly anticipates the parade each year.
“This is something I love to do,” he said. “Just like kids can’t sleep the night before Christmas because they’re so excited, I can’t sleep the night before Christmas Eve because I’m so excited for the parade.”