|King & Arnold Family Grand Marshals for Fall Foliage Parade|
|03:00PM / Friday, September 09, 2022|
|Mr. and Mrs. Claus (Leon and MaryAnn King) pose on the back of the Fire Department's newly restored 1941 fire engine in 2013. The Kings and the Arnold family, who have been hosted a Christmas light extravaganza for decades, are this year's parade grand marshals. |
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Arnolds and the Kings have been selected as grand marshals for the upcoming 66th annual Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage parade presented by 1Berkshire.
The parade will be held in downtown North Adams on Sunday, Oct. 2, at 1 p.m. This year's parade theme is "Holidays on Parade," a celebration of all holidays and festivities throughout the calendar year.
More than 30 years ago, Wayne Arnold began decorating his house on East Main Street with just a few sets of lights on his porch; now that tradition has grown to include thousands of lights. Just as the display has grown, so has the family has grown: now, the fourth generation of Arnolds are involved.
"As a young boy, my family and I would travel to and from Northampton to see family and always admired the light displays year after year," said Wayne Arnold. "You never quite realize the impact it makes on others until you see other families visiting in the yard as part of their own long-standing tradition."
The number of people coming back year after year, and generation after generation, is something the Arnolds enjoy.
"It's so special to us as a family, and we're just as thankful that it's special to the community as well," he said.
From 1986 to 2015, MaryAnn and Leon King have dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Claus for the City of North Adams' tree lighting. They continue to volunteer and do appearances for various groups and organizations, and have volunteered with the Cub Scouts, Northern Berkshire Youth Soccer, the Parent-Teacher Group, the summer youth program Respecting Other People Encouraging Self-Esteem (ROPES), the Downtown Celebration, and the Northern Berkshire Safety Camp through North Adams Public Schools, just to name a few.
They have organized the annual Toy Drive for Emergency Services, and have volunteered time for many events sponsored by the North Adams Police Department, including the sale of patches in observance of Childhood Cancer Awareness for the month of September.
MaryAnn King told the story of how they got started as Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
"Back in the '80s, the late Claire Piaggi dressed as Mrs. Claus for the annual tree lighting, and needed a Santa. Mayor John Barrett knew Leon had an outfit, and Leon was contacted by Claire," she said. "Two years later, Claire was retiring, so the city now needed both Santa and Mrs. Claus."
Not finding a Mrs. Claus costume that she liked, MaryAnn set out to make her own, and had to share this news with her young children in a way to keep the magic alive for the season.
"Krista and Leon were 7 and 5, so I made them elf outfits so they could be with us. We told them that Santa couldn't be everywhere, so he contacted special people to be his helpers."
The couple mailed Leon's Santa suit to the house and the children thought it came directly from the North Pole. "We didn't want to ruin their belief in Santa," said MaryAnn.
Upon hearing the names of those selected by the Parade Committee, Mayor Jennifer Macksey said it was "fitting that the Arnold and King families have been named as this year's grand marshals of the 66th annual Fall Foliage Parade, 'Holidays on Parade.' Both families have brought joy to members of our community for decades."
Macksey said these families emulate this year's parade theme.
"For nearly 30 years, Wayne Arnold and his family have been spreading cheer with an elaborate Christmas lights display on their East Main Street property that continuously awes us. With 7,000 lights, the display was recognized in 2020 as Berkshire County's best holiday light display. From well-known children's characters to good ol' Saint Nicholas and Mrs. Claus, angel figures and more, the Arnolds lift the spirits of both young and old," the mayor said.
"MaryAnn and Leon King for three decades have put smiles on the faces of children. MaryAnn helps coordinate the annual emergency services toy drive, bringing happiness to children during the holidays, as well as to their first-responder parents who selflessly serve our community. The Kings also participate in our city's annual tree lighting celebration, and have been known to portray Santa and Mrs. Claus during festivities."
The Parade Committee members say they are delighted that the Arnolds and the Kings will be participating in this year's Fall Foliage Parade as grand marshals. Applications to participate in the parade are still available. More information is available here.