A long-standing holiday event will take place again this year in western Massachusetts after some doubt about its future. Plans were confirmed Tuesday for the Parade of Big Balloons in Springfield.
The parade, held on the day after Thanksgiving, has been a tradition in Springfield since the 1980s, but its fate was uncertain after the sale this year of its long-time title sponsor, the downtown Tower Square commercial complex.
"You don't know how grateful I am to be here, because I really didn't think this was going to happen," said Judy Matt, President of Spirit of Springfield, the nonprofit that produces the parade.
She said the new owners of Tower Square agreed to co-sponsor this year’s edition along with MGM Springfield. Matt praised the Tower Square ownership group for realizing how important the parade is to the region.
"This is our Radio City, our New York City," explained Matt. "This is meanful to the people we serve. Together with this, Bright Nights celebrating its 25th anniversary next year, these are iconic events."
The parade features about a dozen large helium-filled balloons including a 75-foot inflatable “Cat in the Hat” in a nod to Dr. Seuss’ local ties. There are marching bands, dance groups, a motorized- unit of the Melha Shriners, contingents from local community organizations, and Santa Claus riding on a fire truck.
Matt said it costs about $38,000 to put on the two-hour parade.
Vid Mitta, managing partner for the owners of Tower Square, said the parade is a way to showcase downtown Springfield.
"It is with great pleasure the new owners of Tower Square continue to sponsor this annual celebration," he said.
Mitta is one of four investors who bought Tower Square for $17.5 million last April from MassMutual. The complex includes a two-store retail mall, a 28-story office tower, a 260-room hotel and 1,200-space parking garage.
It was also announced Tuesday that the grand marshal for this year’s parade is Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.
" I am honored to be named the parade marshall," said Sarno.
Sarno will be the first sitting mayor to lead the procession since Mayor Charles Ryan in 2005.
"I acept it on behalf of all the dedicated and hard-working employees of the city of Springfield," said Sarno. "I can't do this alone. It is a team approach."
The parade steps off on Main Street at 11 a.m.
After the parade ends, the first outdoor ice skating rink in Springfield will open to the public at the MGM plaza.
Figure skating champion and Massachusetts native Nancy Kerrigan is scheduled to be there.