"Remember Those Who Served" is the theme of the Gahanna Lions Club annual parade, presented by Toyota Direct, that will kick off Independence Day festivities at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 4, at Clark Hall, 380 Granville St.

Chuck Rees, parade chairman, said he hopes this year's parade is even bigger and better than that of last year.

"We had a large parade last year and hope to outdo that if rain holds off," he said.

He said the Lions Club has been sponsoring the parade for more than 70 years.

"It has been our pleasure," Rees said. "We buy the ribbons. It's our way to give back to the community. It's our way of giving back for supporting us all these years."

Ribbons will be awarded for the best entries in various categories.

Mayor Tom Kneeland will pass out his Mayor's Award buttons to those who show their best community pride.

Rees said the Columbus-based Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association will be among the groups taking part.

"That's one group that takes care of the dead and any veteran who doesn't have family," Rees said. "People like that have to be recognized. It's about the active military and veterans. We want to pay respect to them."

He said several regular parade participants will return, including Gahanna Lincoln's Golden Lions Marching Band, the Capital City Corvette Club, Gahanna American Legion Post 797, Gahanna Veterans of Foreign Wars Tri-Community Post 4719, fire trucks from various divisions, Scout troops and soccer groups.

Youth are encouraged to decorate their bicycles.

This year's parade grand marshal is Yolanda Harris, a Gahanna Lincoln High School alumna and WBNS-10TV television personality.

"I've known Yolanda since she was a young girl," Rees said. "She's always promoting Gahanna, and I thought this was the least we could do."

Harris said she's looking forward to celebrating the country's independence with her friends in Gahanna.

"I was honored and really excited when the Lions Club asked me to be a part of their July Fourth parade," she said.

"I grew up in Gahanna and have fond memories of this tradition. I remember decorating a pick-up truck with signs and streamers as a high school cheerleader, and riding in the parade with my squad.

"So I'm honored to be back," Harris said.

The parade will travel west on Granville Street and conclude at Royal Manor Plaza on Stygler Road for the walkers and cyclists, and will continue to Middle School West for the motorized units.

Following the parade, the fun will continue during a Community Family Day event, presented by Toyota Direct, at Creekside Park and Plaza, 117 Mill St., from 5 to 9 p.m.

There will be live music from Jamie Said So and Usual Suspects, activities from the Gahanna Parks and Recreation GMAC trailer, Games 2U (fee for wristbands) and give-aways from the CD 102.5 Scene Team.

A variety of food trucks also will be on site.

The evening will conclude at the Gahanna Municipal Golf Course, 220 Olde Ridenour Road, with a fireworks display hosted by Kemba Financial Credit Union and choreographed with a soundtrack from CD102.5.

The viewing area for the fireworks will open at 6 p.m. with fireworks set to launch around 10 p.m.

"Independence Day is such an important day for our city," Kneeland said. "It's a time set aside to show pride in our country and our community. It's also a time we can express our deep respect for those who continue to protect our nation's freedoms."

Kneeland said he encourages everyone to get involved in the annual Gahanna Lion's Club Independence Day parade by building a float, decorating bicycles or walking to show support.

"I am excited about this year's celebration because we have added more fireworks to our display," said Jeff Barr, parks and recreation director. "Another exciting addition to this year's celebration is that attendees can tune into CD 102.5 to hear a special soundtrack that will be broadcast simultaneously with the fireworks presentation."

For more information visit www.gahanna.gov/independenceday.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla