To celebrate an historic hosting of an annual Labor Day celebration in Pickerington, Lions Club members said they plan to thank the community by appealing to their stomachs and wallets.

Since 1949, the Pickerington Lions Club has organized the local community's Labor Day Homecoming celebration.

That makes this year the 70th time the group will preside over the event, which is known for its parade, followed by a fish fry in Victory Park.

To mark the event, the Lions have decided to show their appreciation to the community for its support of the organization by sweetening the deal for those who turn out Sept. 3 for the 2018 Pickerington Lions Club Labor Day Homecoming Parade and Fish Fry.

"We're actually reducing our prices a little bit in celebration of our 70th year for the event," said Brian Fox, a Pickerington Lions Club past president.

"Fish dinners will be $7 instead of $8.

"Sandwiches have been $5 in the past. We're going to sell them for $4 this year."

In keeping with tradition, dinners will include coleslaw and fries. Fox also noted those who don't wish to partake in the 500 pounds of perch the club plans to fry in Victory Park will have the option of $1 hot dogs.

"We consider (the Labor Day celebration) to be a community service, but it's a big fundraiser for us, as well," Fox said.

"We really wanted to figure out a way to thank the community for the decades of support they've given us.

"We're going to lower the price of food and give them more this year."

Pickerington's Labor Day celebration dates to 1911, making it a rich tradition and one of the longest running in the community, Fox said.

This year's festivities will kick off with the parade at 10 a.m.. It will step off from at Pickerington High School Central, 300 Opportunity Way, and travel north on Lockville Road, east on Columbus Street and south on Hill Road, ending at Pickerington Ridgeview Junior High.

The grand marshal will be Gerald Freeny, president of the 2018-19 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.

According to the Tournament of Roses, Freeny has been a volunteer member of the Tournament of Roses Association since 1988.

In addition to his many years of service in the Tournament of Roses, his community involvement has included; president of the San Gabriel chapter of NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives), the Pasadena Police Foundation Board, Pasadena Police Citizens Academy, Pasadena Rose Bowl Aquatics Board, University Club, Pasadena YMCA Board, Black Support Group at Cal State LA, Urban League Board of Governors, United Way Fundraising Committee, Toast Masters and the Pasadena NAACP, according to the Tournament of Roses website.

Freeny has been on the advisory board of the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation since 2016, and is also a member of the foundation's Museum Committee.

Freeny will be in town to see the Pickerington community and to observe the Pickerington High School Central and Pickerington High School North marching bands. The bands have been invited to perform together in the Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1.

"Early on, the folks from the bands contacted the Lions and asked us to consider Mr. Freeny because he might be in town for Labor Day," Fox said. "We were like, 'Heck yeah.'

"It helps the bands, and we wanted to be part of it. He's got a real interesting history and seems like he's a really community-minded individual."

Fox said those interested in being part of the parade can register via email at pickeringtonlions@gmail.com.

As the parade makes its way through Olde Pickerington Village, the Lions' fish fry will begin at 11 a.m. in Victory Park, 100 Lockville Road.

This year, the celebration in the park will include a kids' zone, which will feature balloon sculptures, games and face-painting, and a disc jockey will provide musical entertainment.

Additionally, band members from Central and North will perform.

"The combined band from both high schools will play a concert as they do every year," Fox said. "That's always a highlight."

Fox said the celebration likely will run until 2 p.m.

"We're excited about it," he said. "It's a big fundraiser for us, a big service event and it's something we work on throughout the summer.

"We hope people will come out. It will be very family-friendly."

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