The Gahanna community could help brighten the season for neighbors in need by donating nonperishable food items during the kickoff of Holiday Lights! beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at Creekside, 123 Mill St.
The Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau's two-month celebration will begin with Mayor Becky Stinchcomb illuminating the grand holiday tree at the plaza. New this year will be a food collection to benefit Gahanna Residents In Need.
Donations may be dropped off from 6 to 7 p.m. near the Wine Guy Bistro at Creekside during the lighting ceremony that officially starts the Holiday Lights! season, as presented by AEP Ohio.
A food drive also will be held the day of the Holiday Lights! parade Nov. 23, when donations for GRIN will be collected from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Mifflin Presbyterian Church, 123 Granville St.
Sandy Weber, food pantry worker, said GRIN has been distributing about 40 boxes of food every month.
"The Holiday Lights! committee called us and wanted to know if it would be all right to receive cans of food," Weber said. "It's wonderful. We are so grateful for everything. Mifflin Presbyterian always serves cookies and hot chocolate at the parade. I said what better way to drop cans and nonperishables at the church (where the panty is).
"We're down on everything but vegetables," she said.
Weber said the deadline to screen applicants for Thanksgiving and Christmas assistance is 8 p.m. Nov. 1 at Mifflin Presbyterian.
The Holiday Lights! parade will feature bands, floats and the popular Oshkosh Striker air-rescue fire truck from the Port Columbus International Airport, all donning thousands of twinkling lights.
Former Mifflin Township Fire Chief Jim DeConnick will serve as this year's parade grand marshal.
Last year's parade attracted nearly 15,000 people, after facing a year's hiatus because of budget constraints.
"It was a beautiful day, and everyone was so excited about the parade coming back," said Gretchen Hof, GCVB events coordinator. "It's been a longstanding community tradition, so we really had a crowd. This year, we're planning some dazzling new surprises and anticipate another great turnout."
Lighted parade entrants will include both community-designed and professionally constructed floats, along with marching bands, equestrian entries and Santa Claus.
The Healthy Holiday Family Fun Run and the Healthy Holiday 5K Run, presented by Mount Carmel, will precede the parade.
Beginning Saturday, Dec. 1, Santa will welcome visitors to his North Pole annex, the Ohio Herb Education Center, 110 Mill St.
Letter-writing supplies and an express North Pole mailbox will allow quick delivery to the North Pole.
The Holiday Character Breakfast on Saturday, Dec. 8, presented by Telhio Credit Union, will feature favorite holiday characters and other entertainment, followed by Katie's Cakes' all-you-can-eat pancakes.
The Holiday Lights! season continues through Jan. 4, 2013.
Look inside next week's Rocky Fork Enterprise for a special Gahanna Holiday Lights! guide.