"I saw Santa Claus for Christmas, and I saw Elmo, Elmo," said two-year-old Ava, who was watching the parade with her mother Lauren Wahl.
"It was great. They did a really nice job and they took care of the kids," said Wahl, North Bergen.
"The streets of the parade route are always filled with people," said Brian McGorty, a captain at the NHRFR and representative for the North Hudson Firefighters Association. "Most often we have had very cold weather on parade day, but when you see the faces of those kids it warms everything up and makes it all worth while."
In addition to the ten floats and decorated fire engines that trucked down Bergenline Avenue from 85th Street in North Bergen to 32nd Street in Union City, a number of professional bands and the local high school bands participated in the parade, along with some favorite beloved cartoon characters.
"It was pretty good. I was surprised so many towns were involved, but they needed more Christmas music," said Joe Petrillo, who was out with his wife Carol and daughter Kaleena from Union City.
"My favorite was the Grinch because I like the cartoon and he's always funny," said Kaleena.
"Billy Renna [a NHRFR firefighter] is the driving force behind this as chairman of the parade," said McGorty. "He contacts all kinds of people and gets the various floats and bands. Billy Renna is the Head Elf. He's done a fabulous job."
Firefighters also gave out some goodies for the kids.
"It's our seventh annual parade for North Hudson, every year it gets better," said Glen Michelin, president of the North Hudson Firefighters Association.
"Naturally we have Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus on their own float at the end, and we hand out books and candy canes," said Michelin.
This year's loot was donated from Hudson News Company and Anpesil Candy in North Bergen.
"We work together with all the local merchants who made donations and we put it all together to try and give a little back to the North Hudson community," Michelin added.
A Christmas tradition
The NHRFR Christmas Parade became an annual tradition after the local fire departments of the North Hudson municipalities regionalized in January of 1999.
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.
"Each town did something during the Christmas season to give back to the community they served," said McGorty. "Weehawken used to have a parade that went through all the streets of Weehawken, and other fire houses used to do things like visit hospitals or adopt a family."
According to Michelin, after the regionalization the firefighters association wanted to keep that annual tradition alive through a more conjoined effort that would reach out to all of North Hudson.
"We decided to join forces and Bergenline Avenue covers the most ground," said Michelin. "We have a strong relationship with the public, and have had a lot of help from the five mayors and the communities."
"It's really a celebration of the relationship between our firefighters and especially the children of the community," said McGorty. "It's not only because so many of our firefighters are parents themselves, but there really is a unique relationship that exists, and any event that involves children, firefighter are willing to go that extra yard."
Many firefighters, who volunteer to march in the annual parade, bring their own families to participate every year. Many of which who are long since grown now bring their own children.
"There has been great participation from fellow chief officers to new recruits," said McGorty. "It's also so great to see a lot of these young guys, who have embraced this, because you see that the tradition is going to continue long after some of us older guys are gone. The Christmas season brings out the best in everyone, it's a family time of year, and the fire department itself is an extended family."
The parade wouldn't be complete, of course, without the NHRFR bringing out some of their finest units to march along with them including an antique fire engine decorated and brought out for a holiday run.
The parade, which began at 7 p.m., walked the length of Bergenline Avenue from 85th Street and then up 32nd Street to Kennedy Boulevard.
"I participate every year and always look forward to it," said McGorty. Comments on this piece can be sent to: JRosero@hudsonreporter.com.