by Susan Mikula Campbell
The ninth annual Electric Lights Parade will once again jump-start the holiday season, starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, along Military Road in the Town of Niagara.
The parade will not only provide plenty of lights, floats and bands, but also is designed to help feed the hungry.
"We're really trying hard to up the food drive this year," said Gary Strenkoski, parade chairman, explaining that Fashion Outlets of Niagara has already collected 1,500 pounds of food, and parade-goers also will be asked to bring food donations on behalf of Community Missions.
Volunteers from Frontier Fire Co. will be collecting cans, bottles and boxes of food along the parade route, or donations also can be dropped off at the new reviewing stand, which this year has been moved to near the Kmart parking lot.
Strenkoski said the parade will last about an hour. "It will be a good parade," he said. "We're pretty excited about it."
A major highlight, as always, will be the appearance of Santa Claus near the end of the parade. Santa also will visit Niagara Active Hose Fire Company, 6010 Lockport Road, following the parade for photos and visits with the children.
There will be plenty of music, including three pipe bands, the return of the award-winning Ghostriders and the Niagara Falls High School band.
One new participant this year is Ransomville Speedway, which will be bringing its pace car and two racecars driven by Speedway season regulars Pat O'Keefe of Youngstown and Steve Matson of Ransomville.
Tana Robinson, Ransomville Speedway marketing and public relations director, said their appearance in the parade is to promote not just the regular May to September racing season, but the Jan. 1 winter race, which began about 14 years ago when somebody said, "Hey, let's do something in the winter for fun!"
"It has turned into one of the biggest races we hold," Robinson said, noting that the New Year's Day race usually averages about 100 to 125 entrants with a pretty full grandstand of spectators as well.
The Electric Lights Parade is organized and presented by the Town of Niagara, the Town of Niagara Business and Professional Association Inc. and the Niagara USA Chamber. The major sponsor for the parade is Republic Services (Allied Waste Industries of Niagara Falls).