PRESQUE ISLE – When most children go to a holiday parade, they expect to be handed candy canes and other Christmas treats.
While that always takes place at the Presque Isle Holiday Light Parade, something else is given to the children along the parade route that lasts longer and provides more benefits than candy: books.
Once again this year, students and employees at Northern Maine Community College will dress as elves and hand out more than 1,000 books to kids of all ages enjoying the parade. This is the fifth year that the book distribution has taken place at the event.
“Our initial goal was to collect 500 books, but we will have over 1,000 by the time of the parade,” Jason Parent, director of development and college relations, said Friday. “We have about 25 students who said they would help us distribute them during the parade.”
Parent said the books came from people, businesses and organizations throughout the community. On Wednesday, the First Book Aroostook program donated 400 books, he added.
The organization is a local advisory board of the First Book program, which is a nonprofit organization that works to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books.
First Book Aroostook has distributed more than 8,000 books in Aroostook County since 2000.
The initiative is powered by instructor Colleen Harmon, who has been working with volunteers to collect books for the parade.
“The students get a chance through this to go out in the public and to learn event coordination,” she said Friday. “They also learn the feeling of giving. Everyone enjoys it.”
She added that children are “very happy” to receive the books along the parade route.
“This is something they can take home with them and it will keep,” she said. “But I think the parents are happier than the children are.” Boxes full of books will fill the back of the NMCC emergency medical services training vehicle, which will serve as the “bookmobile” for the parade. Several college students and employees will take the books and hand them out to children along the route.
The college also has a parade float entry, whose theme this year will be “NMCC: Santa’s Workshop, Future Elves in Training” to reflect the entrepreneurial programs offered at the college and the important role NMCC plays in educating the county’s work force.
Students in NMCC’s residential construction program have constructed a small workshop that will serve as a Santa’s Workshop backdrop. Children of college students and employees will join their parents on the float and in handing out books along the route.
The light parade will make its way down Main Street beginning at 7 tonight.