One of Canal Winchester's favorite traditions began in 1920 as a small gathering.
Today, the Labor Day Festival attracts nearly 35,000 visitors to the city's historic district over three days, with this year's event taking place Saturday, Aug. 31, through Monday, Sept. 2. At 99 years, the countdown already has begun for next year's centennial party.
"As we plan for the 99th, we're thinking about the 100th," said Karen Stiles, executive director of Destination: Canal Winchester, which helps organize and promote the event. "It's hard not to. On one hand, you just want to say, 'Let's just focus on this year's festival.' But because next year we want to pull out all the stops, we're also constantly thinking, 'Let's make sure we do that next year.' "
Opening ceremonies begin at noon Aug. 31 on the main stage. Festival hours are noon to 11 p.m. Aug. 31; 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sept. 1; and 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 2.
"With so many food vendors, arts and crafts vendors, rides, games, free entertainment, a hospitality tent and our renowned parade, there is something sure to please everyone in the family," Mayor Mike Ebert said in a news release.
The parade, themed "Heroes," is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Sept. 2 at Canal Winchester High School and will continue down Washington, West Columbia, Waterloo and West streets before ending at the city pool.
The BrockStrong Foundation, a nonprofit organization created the family of Brock Johnson to continue the teenager's legacy, is the grand marshal. According to the foundation's website, its mission is "showing compassion and kindness to the community, investing in youth and spreading random acts of kindness through everyone involved."
Johnson died at age 14 in 2015 after undergoing a bone-marrow transplant that doctors hoped would help cure a rare autoimmune disease that prevented his blood from clotting.
The parade features dozens of floats, marching bands, including Canal Winchester and Groveport high schools' bands, and other groups.
Awards are given to best use of theme, best float and best marching contingent.
Two stages, as well as the Stradley Park gazebo, will be host to free entertainment over the festival's three days, including Jolivia, featuring Josh Logan of NBC's "The Voice" on Aug. 31 and Shucking Bubba Deluxe on Sept. 2. The karaoke preliminaries begin at 6 p.m. Aug. 31 on the Waterloo Stage followed by the finals at 3 p.m. Sept. 2 on the Diley Ridge Medical Center Stage.