Fried fish, a 5K run and a Fourth of July parade that steps off a few days early -- on purpose -- will highlight a jam-packed weekend in Prairie Township.

The Prairie Township Firefighters Association spends weeks preparing for a two-day festival that serves more than 2,000 pounds of fried ocean perch.

The 69th annual fish fry will be held from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, June 29, and Saturday, June 30, at 106 Norton Road.

The 18th annual Firefighter's Cruise-In will highlight the first night, with dash plaques being awarded to the first 100 registered cars. Registration begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday and costs $10.

The firefighters association supports the fire department and its education and outreach initiatives.

The association has used money from the fish fry to purchase an AMKUS Rescue System -- like the "jaws of life" -- and to install a 9/11 memorial at the Inah Avenue Fire Station. Funds also support educational programs and help pay for meals after department funerals and promotions, Lt. Jim Troesch said.

"It helps purchase things so that the taxpayer's money isn't used," Troesch said.

Three live bands will play over the two days, and a midway with carnival rides and games will be available. A craft and vendor area and a nightly raffle also are planned.

David Warner, a former township trustee, said he was "born and raised" in the township and remembers when the fish fry was held at the township hall.

"Even if it's raining, stand in line and get your fish. It's worth the wait," he said.

He introduced his wife, Joyce, to the fish fry when they moved to the area in the early 1960s.

"One of the nicest things about the fish fry is that it's kind of a reunion ... a gathering place," Joyce Warner said. "The camaraderie remains the same. Especially Westland grads or families who moved out of the area. Their parents no longer live here but they want to come back."

It's also a great way to welcome new residents looking to start their own tradition, and a time for three different shifts of firefighters to come together, Troesch said.

"All the units come together and all the families get to be here with them," Troesch said. "There's a lot of citizens that have been here a long time and are moving out into assisted living or out of the community. We have a lot of new people coming in. We have enjoyed their support and we enjoy giving back to the community."

Barbara Craig has volunteered at the fish fry for "at least" the last 10 years but has been attending it far longer.

Her favorite part: "The fish," Craig said. "We sell raffle tickets and try to answer questions that the community has. You can sit around and listen to the entertainment, and it's a great time."

The fish fry will accept cash or credit cards for food payments. Parking is available at the nearby Prairie Norton Elementary School, 105 Norton Rd. More information and a complete band lineup can be found at prairietownship.org/264/Fish-Fry.

A July Fourth parade -- in June

The annual Westland Area Business Association July Fourth Parade steps off at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 30, from the Lincoln Village Plaza and heads west on West Broad Street before ending at Norton Middle School, 215 Norton Road.

The 2018 parade theme is Celebrating Our CommUNITY.

More than 50 organizations, including all four Southwestern City Schools' high school bands, will march down "iconic Route 40," said Greg Burke, longtime WABA member and parade organizer.

Decades ago WABA would hold its parade on the Fourth of July, much like other communities who often recruited participants from the Westland area, Burke said.

"We decided to always hold it the Saturday prior to July Fourth and eventually the fish fry just sort of ran into it. That way, we're not competing," he said.

Burke, the former Southwestern City Schools athletic director and a West High School graduate, said the entire day makes him proud of his roots.

"It's a significant show going on down Broad Street," Burke said. "The community gets to go out and be together. It's a chance to show what we can do."

Running for a reason

The Freedom Run will take place before the parade, starting at 8:30 a.m., and follow a route through the Lincoln Village neighborhood before ending on West Broad Street.

The 5K will benefit the Prairie Township Community Foundation and is the newly-formed boards' first fundraising event.

Registration costs $25 and can be completed online at racepenguin.com/events/freedom-run/.

The township earlier this year established a fund through the Columbus Foundation, an organization that manages charitable funds, trusts and endowments for organizations throughout central Ohio. Prairie Township trustees also named eight residents to an oversight board to help guide the foundation's efforts.

The money raised will be used to develop an "adaptive" field at the township's Galloway Road Sports Complex for use by people with mobility challenges.

The field is included in plans for the second phase of construction for the sports complex, which is slated to open in 2019.

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