Holiday Parade & Tree Lighting

Saturday, December 1, 2018 (Rain date is 12/2/18)

The theme of the 2018 holiday parade is Spirit of Portsmouth. Festivities will begin at 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 1st (rain date December 2nd), beginning with music in Market Square and then Mayor Blalock lighting the tree at 5:30 p.m. The parade follows at 6:00 p.m. stepping off from Islington/Summer Street. 

All participants and spectators are encouraged to participate in the City’s annual food drive during the parade. Participants can bring food to the start of the parade for pick up by the student volunteers.  Parade spectators can drop food at the parade platform in Market Square or hand deliver their donation to the volunteers walking through the parade with shopping carts. Thank you to the Portsmouth High School students for volunteering their time to this worthy cause each year.

    Parking & Transportation


    From 3 p.m. to 11 p.m the evening of the parade, there will be a flat rate fee of $5 to park at the Hanover Garageand parking will be free at the Foundry Place Garage.

    Portsmouth's free parking shuttle will also be operating during these festivities from 4 p.m to 11 p.m. This shuttle allows for easy parking at the Connect Community Church's parking lot off Market Street, and quick transportation to the downtown at the Hanover Street bus stop - all free of charge

    Road Closures & Detours


    Effective from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 1st, 2018, the Chief of Police will be invoking his emergency powers, prohibiting parking and vehicular travel on certain streets in the City due to the Annual Portsmouth Holiday Parade.

    The Parade Route will begin at Plaza 800 on Islington Street (6:00 p.m.) and proceed east to Congress Street. The Parade will then travel on Congress Street into Market Square and onto Pleasant Street. The Parade will cross State Street at Pleasant Street and turn onto Junkins Avenue, ending at the South Mill Playground Parking Lot.

    NO PARKING – Vehicles must not be parked on the parade route including the following streets during the times specified or they will be towed at the owner’s expense. Towing of vehicles will begin at 3:30 p.m.

    • Congress Street – all
    • Market Square – all
    • Pleasant Street – all

    Residents, business owners and employers located inside the parade route are advised that vehicles will not be permitted to cross the parade route except in an emergency. It is required that all parked vehicles be moved outside the parade route prior to 3:00 p.m. Other areas in and around the event will be restricted. Police Officers, event volunteers, signs and/or barricades will be in place for these areas.


    ROAD CLOSURES – the following streets are some that will be closed or restricted to local traffic only. Police Officers, signs and/or barricades will be in place for these streets. 

    • Islington Street – from Plaza 800 to Maplewood Ave and most adjacent side streets.
    • The intersection of Middle Street, Congress Street, Maplewood Avenue and Islington Street
    • Daniel Street – from Penhallow to Market Square
    • Market Street – from Hanover Street to Market Square
    • Fleet Street – from Hanover Street to Congress Street and State Street to Congress Street
    • State Street – from Fleet Street to Pleasant Street
    • Court Street – from Fleet Street to Pleasant Street and Washington Street to Pleasant Street.
    • Porter Street – from Fleet Street to Pleasant Street
    • Pleasant Street – from Junkins Avenue to Market Square
    • Junkins Avenue – from Parrott Avenue to Pleasant Street
    • Parrott Avenue – from Rogers Street to Junkins Avenue


    Persons wishing to travel between Maplewood Avenue and Middle Street are directed to use Route 95 or Borthwick Avenue. There will be significant traffic delays in the parade route area as it passes and motorists are strongly urged to seek alternate routes away from affected streets.

    BUS PARKING – Contact your carrier for information regarding pickup.

    POSTAL PATRONS – are asked to pick up their mail by 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 1st

    Parade Route

    Holiday Parade Route
    Viewing of the parade for spectators starts at Summer/Islington Street.


    Grand Marshal: Harold Whitehouse


    Each year a Grand Marshal is chosen who exemplifies the good work that has been done in Portsmouth. Former City councilor Harold Whitehouse was chosen because of his long-standing commitment to the Portsmouth community. “Mr. Whitehouse has dedicated countless volunteer hours on the City Council, School Board, City committees, and area non-profits to try and uphold the values of this community. We are thrilled to be able to honor his years of hard work and dedication,” says Mayor Blalock.

    The Tree


    This year's holiday tree in Market Square (a 1,500 lb, 30’ tall Blue Spruce) is donated by the Kane Company, Inc. Ralph Creston, owner of National Wrecker, also donated the flatbed to assist with transportation of the tree. 

    Key Deadlines


    Below please note key deadlines for participating in the parade, as well as the document that includes full rules, regulations and the application form:

    • Monday, November 5: Application deadline for floats, flatbed trailers and towed trailers
    • Monday, November 5 at 6:30 p.m.: Safety Meeting for float entries and any entry carrying someone outside a vehicle cab. Portsmouth Police Station – 1 Junkins Avenue (see special rules for floats/towed trailers. Please bring 3 things to the meeting: Pics or schematics of float (if pulling a trailer-- photos must show that wheels are not exposed); proof of registration & insurance for trailer; and photocopy of the drivers license of the driver of the float unit. All drivers will be re-checked on parade night.
    • Monday, November 19 at 12:00 p.m.:  Deadline for other entries. (A $25 late fee must accompany ALL applications following the deadline.)

    Parade Rules, Regulations & Application