Mayor Names Steve Cirillo as Grand Marshal of 2023 Illuminated Holiday Parade

December 4, 2023

The City’s 2023 Annual Holiday Tree-lighting, Illuminated Holiday Parade and new Shop & Stroll event takes place on Saturday, December 2 with festivities starting at 2 pm. Each year the City selects a Grand Marshal who “best exemplifies the spirit of generosity and commitment to the community.” This year, Mayor Deaglan McEachern is pleased to announce that Steve Cirillo Portsmouth High School (PHS) performing arts coordinator and champion of the PHS and Portsmouth Middle School Holiday Ensemble since the early 1990s is the 2023 Grand Marshal.

Portsmouth’s annual Tree Lighting ceremony begins at 5 pm with music from the Portsmouth Middle & High School Holiday Ensemble. At 5:30 pm, the Mayor officially marks the beginning of Portsmouth’s holiday season by flipping the larger-than-life switch in the middle of Market Square to light up the downtown holiday tree. Grand Marshal Steve Cirillo and the Portsmouth High School Clipper Band then lead the parade to Market Square.

Steve Cirillo joined the school system in 1988 as Junior High School Band Director and percussion teacher and now, since 2011, oversees all programs of the K -12 performing arts program including classroom music, re-introducing classroom drama, Instrumental and Choral programs, and all after school activities for the performing arts, guiding and interacting with thousands of students over the past 36 years. Between 2003 and 2013 he took the PHS Percussion ensemble to the World Percussion Championships eight times, winning five silver medals and two world championships.

When asked what he is most proud of, Steve said, “I'm proud of the kids and what they have accomplished in performance and building community everywhere they go. Yes, we have won awards on the world and national stage, but I think what we do in the community is an even greater reward. Portsmouth is a great city that values education and the arts! It has been an incredible ride. I am truly blessed to have been part of it!”

Mayor McEachern also announced that thanks to an effort by 7-year-old Cody Bureau, the City’s holiday tree is being illuminated with colored lights. Cody and his parents will join the Mayor and Steve Cirillo and his family to “flip the switch” on the tree on Saturday.

In making the announcement, Mayor McEachern said, “The theme for this year’s parade is ‘History Lights Our Way’ – the same as the motto for our 400th anniversary – and to light our holiday tree tonight we have two inspiring examples of what that motto means when you put it into action. Portsmouth has a history of lighting the way through darkness and of individuals who have stepped forward to show us how to accomplish great things. Steve has led the Clipper Band for more than three dozen years, often by example. He was my band leader at Portsmouth Middle School. Cody reminds us how the City works when an individual has a suggestion for improving a program or policy. Both Steve and Cody are the best reflections of what we mean when we say our community works best when we work together. And they’re also examples of people who look around, see a door that needs opening and then set the example that holds that door open for those who follow. I can think of no better time than this moment when we all gather to celebrate the Season of Light to put a spotlight on those who lead by the light of their example through the open door of our future and our next 400 years.”

In launching his petition for colorful LED lights this fall on Facebook, Cody wrote, “My dad really likes white lights, but my mom and I love colored lights more because they are more fun.” Cody’s successful effort includes a GoFundMe campaign, running now through the holidays raises funds for the lights and two charities, I Got Bridged and Smile Train.

Following the tree-lighting, the parade steps off from Summer Street/Islington Street at 6 pm and proceeds downtown via Congress Street. It continues through Market Square and onto Pleasant Street before concluding at Junkins Avenue. The City is working with Access Navigators to provide a wheelchair-accessible seated viewing area for the parade. This area is on the sidewalk along Islington Street between Maplewood and Bridge Street, and is reserved for people who have difficulty standing, along with their companions. Space and seating are limited and available on a first-come basis. Nearby public parking includes the Bridge Street Lot, Worth Lot, and Foundry Garage. Access Navigators will provide assistance and holiday cheer. For more details go to

As many as 10,000 spectators are expected to line the one-mile route. See the website for more information.

For more parade information, please contact parade coordinator, Brinn Sullivan at (603) 767-2697 or


At the December 4, 2023 City Council meeting, Mayor McEachern presented a Mayor's Award to Cody Bureau for his efforts.

Mayor McEachern, Cody Bureau receiving Mayor's Award with his Dad

Holiday Tree in Market Square right before lighting.