WOOLWICH TWP. — Woolwich Township conducted its first holiday parade on Dec. 7, welcoming Santa to the township and also welcoming back Woolwich resident US Army Specialist Mark Viereck home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
The parade kicked off at the Gov. Charles Stratton School on Fredrick Blvd. and continued along Center Square Road to Auburn Avenue and then High Hill Road and into the park, culminating in the Woolwich Township Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Despite the cold weather, folks gathered along the parade route and at the park to see Santa’s arrival. Many local fire companies and organizations also participated in the parade.
Aside from greeting Santa, another highlight of the evening was the Hero’s Welcome Home for US Army Specialist Mark Viereck, son of Karen and Leslie Viereck III of Woolwich. Viereck’ s grandfather, Jack Nothdurft Sr., a 62 year member of the Woolwich Fire Company, was the Parade Marshall. Also on hand was his niece, Sarah Nothdurft, who is a member of the New Jersey National Guard and served two tours in Iraq.
A 2007 graduate of Kingsway Regional High School and a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, Viereck spent the past nine months in Afghanistan. Viereck was honored with a proclamation from Woolwich Township Mayor Sam Maccarone Jr., as well as a Congressional Proclamation, and one from Gloucester County Freeholder Deputy Director Joe Chila.
“We are honored to welcome home one of our own, whose service to our country should be greatly and publicly acknowledged,” Maccarone stated.
The parade was the idea of Maccarone, who along with the Woolwich Fire Company and Swedesboro-Woolwich Parks and Recreation, planned and executed the successful event.
After the parade, crowds gathered at the Locke Avenue Pa, where members of the Sharptown North Church provided inflatables, pictures with Santa, face painting, Reindeer games, and crafts in a heated tent, Christmas music, and snacks.
As the township’s population has grown, so has the multitude of family attendee’s grown for this annual event, first held in 2003. “We are grateful to Sharptown North for their assistance in putting this enjoyable holiday event together for our residents,” Maccarone stated.
“And a great big thanks to Santa Claus and Specialist Viereck for making the event so special for our residents,” he added.