by Olivia Bitetti
Take a break from raiding the Halloween candy this Saturday and head to Military Road in Town of Niagara for the annual Niagara Electric Lights Parade.
Organized by the Town of Niagara Business and Professional Association, the event is designed not only to get the upcoming holiday season rolling, but also to ensure needy local residents have full bellies when Thanksgiving arrives.
The parade starts at 5:30 p.m. from Fourth Avenue and heads up Military to Packard Road. Community members attending the parade are asked to "care a ton" and bring non-perishable food items to help the needy.
Parade Chairman Gary Strenkoski said that although the date of the parade has been moved up seven days sooner than previous years as an experiment, he is optimistic about the outcome.
TNBPA has lined up more than 60 units of bands, floats, entertainment and marching groups, as well as fire departments, which will raise the American flag at the parade and rumble their equipment down the road.
"The parade is going to be wonderful. We know that. There are a lot of wonderful people that are involved with this parade," Strenkoski said. "It is going to be successful regardless of the weather."
Because the earlier parade date is an opportunity to embrace the Halloween spirit, paradegoers and participants are encouraged to gear their costumes, attire or decorations toward either Halloween or the Christmas holiday.
The TNBPA is teaming up with the Niagara USA Chamber, Niagara Wheatfield Kiwanis, United Way of Greater Niagara, Wegmans and Walmart as well as other local businesses, school and non-profit organizations to raise more than one ton of non-perishables for Community Missions.
"This parade raises over one ton of food, which means we are going to help over 300 to 400 families have a Thanksgiving and Christmas meal," said Katie Trombley, director of public relations and events for Community Missions, "The food that is collected at this event helps families avoid having to choose Thanksgiving dinner over an electric bill."
"The food drive is very near and dear to my heart. It helps a lot of people at Community Missions," Strenkoski said. "It is all about the food drive more than anything."