When choosing a Fourth of July activity this year, those interested in being pinged by Tootsie Rolls or drenched by water guns might want to avoid Westerville's Independence Day Parade.
But the event, hosted by the Rotary Club of Westerville and presented by Mount Carmel St. Ann's Hospital boasts a long route through the city, one that Rotary Club of Westerville Fourth of July Committee co-chairwoman Whitney Smith says is among the best in the state.
"It's one of the longest parades in Ohio, at (close to 2 miles)," she said. "So there's a lot of room for people to sit" and enjoy the procession.
The parade begins at 1 p.m. July 4 -- a Friday this year. Its staging area is the parking lot of the Brooksedge Office Park.
Floats, bands and other parade staples emerge from Brooksedge to State Street at Heatherdown Drive and head north through town to the parking lot of St. Paul's Church at 313 N. State St., at the north end of Uptown Westerville.
This year's theme of "Let Freedom Ring in 2014" was chosen by fifth-grader Emma Kyre, who won the Rotary Club's 2014 theme contest.
Kyre won a $100 savings bond for winning the contest, and she and two friends will ride in a place of honor on the Rotary Club float. But they won't be throwing candy or shooting squirt guns because both have been banned from the parade -- and have been for some time.
While many enjoy the free candy or friendly Independence Day water battles, Smith said safety is more important.
"We're trying to avoid an incident," she said.
"There's a really big safety concern with children running into the street to get candy or just because they're out of control.
"We pair up with the police department and have our own volunteer marshals that come and man the parade and keep kids back and keep people (in the parade) from throwing candy," Smith said.
"I'd hate to see someone get run over."
Parade participants instead are asked to have members of their groups walk up on the sidewalks and hand candy to children watching the event.
And while blasting water at the procession can annoy or please participants in the typically warm afternoon parade, Smith said there's a more important reason for that ban as well.
"It's actually a problem because we have three bands," she said. "If they get hit with the water, it messes up their instruments.
"It's not really fair to them to get their instruments messed up. We try to avoid it, but some people will always do these things."
The parade is expected to run for nearly three hours along its path, which is unchanged from last year. Smith said construction within the city won't be a problem, and the route will be unobstructed.
Parade organizers expect about 10,000 people to watch the parade, roughly a quarter of the population of Westerville.
The Fourth of July events also include a 5K run-walk in the morning and the fireworks show in the evening launched from Alum Creek Park South. Festivities, all sponsored by the Rotary Club of Westerville, are Friday, July 4.
For more information, to register for the run or to sign up to march in the parade, visit westervillerotary.com.