by Susan Mikula Campbell
Get in the spirit for the upcoming holidays on Saturday, Nov. 3, with the eighth annual Niagara Electric Lights Parade on Military Road.
More than 70 units have signed up to participate in the professionally judged parade honoring the town's bicentennial. Marchers start down Military Road at 5:30 p.m. from Fourth Avenue to the Military Road Kmart. There's even an after-parade party at the Niagara Active Hose firehall at 6010 Lockport Road.
As usual, Niagara Active Hose and Upper Mountain volunteer fire companies will raise a huge American flag across Military Road. Town of Niagara resident Marie Stevenson will sing "The Star Spangled Banner" at the reviewing stand near Firth Jewelers, where Town Clerk Sylvia Virtuoso and retired broadcaster Joe Chili will share master of ceremonies duties.
"It's gonna be a real nice mix this year. It's all good, solid parade stuff - clowns, a lot of floats, wonderful marching bands," said Gary Strenkoski, parade chairman.
Music will be provided by pipe and drum bands from Thorold, Ont., the Erie County Sheriff's Office, and the Gordon Highlanders of Buffalo, as well as Rochester-area drum and bugle corps, the Ghost Riders, the Hitmen, and the Lost Souls, plus the Niagara Falls High School marching band and the Iroquois Nation Band.
"The floats are always really cool in this parade," Strenkoski said, noting that some of the local businesses have become pretty competitive amongst themselves, trying to come up with bigger and better float ideas every year.
Closest to Strenkoski's heart is the annual food drive. Parade-goers are asked to bring non-perishable food, which will be collected by members of the Frontier Volunteer Fire Co. pushing shopping carts along the route, and donated to Community Missions. Community Missions will also have a food collection bin either on their float or up at the main stage. Marsh's Store on Packard Road and Fashion Outlets have placed collection bins at their businesses.
"We always say, 'Give a ton,' " said Strenkoski, who is hoping this year's event will bring in much more than that.
Also hoping those attending the parade will be generous are the members of the Niagara Falls Fire Department Boot Brigade, who will be collecting cash in their boots for the Niagara Falls Firefighters Toy Fund. The fund delivers Christmas toys to approximately 1,000 children and provides a meal and holiday-themed entertainment for hundreds of residents of nursing homes and adult care facilities in Niagara County, as well as ensuring that winter clothing is provided to hundreds of children in need.
Mark Dembitsky is in charge of the first after-parade party at Niagara Active Hose. For the past couple of years, the company has invited local fire departments to come to their hall after the parade, but this year, decided to open it to the general public, inviting everyone who goes to the parade.
The event is free, thanks to some generous sponsors. There will be pizza and Santa will be on hand to pass out stockings to the kids. The Niagara Falls Fire Department's fire prevention trailer will be parked in the Niagara Active Hose truck bay so both kids and adults can learn about fire prevention.
Doing a Christmas party just after Halloween is not as easy as he originally thought, Dembitsky said, noting he had to order the stockings and Christmas candy from Nebraska.
"All the stores I went to had Christmas decorations up already, but didn't have Christmas candy yet," he said.
Both Strenkoski and Dembitsky are hoping for good weather on Saturday.
Strenkoski said so far the weather forecast for Saturday is good. "After a week of rain, people should be itching to do something for Saturday."
The Niagara Electric Lights Parade is organized and presented by the Town of Niagara, the Town of Niagara Business and Professional Association and the Niagara USA Chamber.
The major sponsor for the parade is Republic Services (Allied Waste Industries of Niagara Falls).