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Rainy day parade lifts kids’ spirits in Lynnfield

By Anne Marie Tobin | April 4, 2020

LYNNFIELD — The skies may have been dark and overcast, but sunny dispositions ruled the day Friday as Lynnfield’s parents, teachers and students defied the rain and cold to unite in spirit on the streets of Lynnfield.

An estimated 130 vehicles took part in two elementary school parades, which slowly wound their way through each school’s neighborhoods. Families lined the parades’ routes, watching and cheering from safe distances in front of their homes, trying to stay dry under umbrellas.

“We have not seen these kids in such a long time, so we literally mapped out a route to try to get to as many neighborhoods as possible,” said Summer Street School second-grade teacher Lisa Forrest, who helped organize her school’s parade. “We knew that Andover had done this and we thought, ‘hey, we can do that here.’ We miss our kids so badly. It was so sad this week when we were allowed into the building to remove our belongings. It was so empty, so we thought why not spread a little love and sunshine on a rainy day.”

The Huckleberry Hill School motorcade brought out the big guns with Police Chief David Breen providing a police escort, leading the cavalcade of cars as they snaked through the 10-mile route, which lasted a little more than an hour.

Officer Jonathan Santos did the honors for the 14-mile, 90-minute Summer Street parade, which needed traffic stopped at the Route 1 lights twice to ensure a safe crossing through the intersection.

Forrest and Huckleberry Principal Melissa Wyland credited the police department for their assistance.

“I cannot thank the police enough for all they did to help keep everyone safe,” said Forrest. “Officer Santos stayed with us the whole time, the whole hour and a half, I could not believe it.”

“It seemed like the whole department was out there for us,” said Wyland. “They helped make this an amazing and uplifting day.”

Cars in both parades were decorated in Lynnfield blue and yellow, some with balloons, with  many of them displaying homemade posters with encouraging words. Students and parents did likewise.

The Vitagliano family — parents Mark and Jennifer and daughters Lylah, a 7-year-old first-grader at Summer Street, and Liv, 4, a preschool student at The Bethlehem School — waited eagerly in their Apple Hill driveway for the parade to pass.

“We are so excited and have been out here since 10,” Jennifer said. 

“No, we’ve been out here since 9:55,” Lylah said. “I miss my teachers and can’t wait to see them.”

For Mark Vitagliano, the day was all about community coming together.

“Not even the dark skies can spoil this day, this moment is so special for the kids and teachers alike,” said Mark.

School Superintendent Jane Tremblay said the parades were timed just right as the district rolls out its new remote learning program Monday.

“The gist of the whole thing is the teachers and kids were desperately missing each other and I couldn’t think of a better way to transition into a new phase,” said Tremblay. “We want the kids to know that people love them and care about them and help everyone have a better day.

“Honestly, I have never seen the teachers so excited about anything, they were positively giddy, in spite of the rain.” 

Wyland said she began receiving an outpouring of thanks and positive feedback from staff and parents just minutes after the parades ended.

“Already I am getting so many emails and texts,” she said. “So many people also stopped and pulled over during the parade to offer support. People saw what was going on and stopped for us, which was so incredible. Today just brought out the best in everyone.”

Forrest gave a shoutout to teachers Michelle Robert and Deb Geunard, along with Summer Street Principal Dr. Karen Dwyer, for their efforts in making the day a success.