By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette — TOWN OF NIAGARA — It is the oldest businesses in the community.
So it's only fitting that this year — the 200th anniversary of the Town of Niagara itself — Marsh's General Store will be taking part in what has become one of the town's biggest annual events — the Electric Lights Parade on Military Road.
"This is our first time participating," said Pam Marsh, part of the third generation of the Marsh family to own and operate the gas station and convenience store located at 7535 Packard Road. "We've always attended but never took part. We're looking to put our name out there and hopefully have a good time and a few laughs along the parade route."
Now in its eighth year, the Electric Lights Parade has been held each year just after Halloween as a way to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The parade starts at 5:30 p.m. today and will follow its usual route: down Military Road from Fourth Avenue, ending at the K-Mart store at the intersection of Packard Road.
It will feature more than 70 marching bands, fire companies, veterans' organizations, community and service groups and, of course, Santa Claus who will be on hand following the parade for photos and visits with children and families. Parade participants will be professionally judged based on various categories.
The Marsh family will be represented by a float surrounded by what Pam Marsh expects will be as many as 20 family members and store employees.
"We have an old gas pump and our banner which says our name and that we're the oldest business in the town," she said. "We'll also have our employees walking the route handing out calendars and candy along the way. Our employees have been very good about participating and putting things together."
This year's parade will also help a couple of worthy local causes, including the Niagara Falls Firefighters Toy Fund and a food drive in support of Community Missions, Inc. Firefighters and volunteers will be on hand to collect donations for the Toy Fund which seeks to provide Christmas toys to needy children and meals and holiday themed entertainment for residents at local nursing homes and adult care facilities.
Volunteers will also be gathering donations of non-perishable food from parade spectators to benefit Community Missions. In 2011, the Community Mission's food pantry served 29,484 meals to 3,276 individuals.
The Electric Lights Parade is organized and presented by the Town of Niagara, the Town of Niagara Business and Professional Association, Inc. and the Niagara USA Chamber. The parade's major sponsors are Allied Waste Industries of Niagara Falls, owners and operators of the Niagara Falls sanitary landfill located at the intersection of 56th Street and Niagara Falls Boulevard.