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Posted: December 15, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Lions host Christmas parade

 Because the National Guard unit stationed in Covington will deploy overseas next year, "Celebrate the Season and Salute the Troops" is the theme for the Covington Lions Club and Main Street Covington 2008 Christmas Parade beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday on the square.

 An area across from the Courthouse stand will be designated for Troops and their families. Also in this area will be the Lions, Toys for Tots, Operation Sandbox and the Food Bank. Used eyeglasses, hearing aids and cell phones will be collected by the Lions, as well as toys for Toys for Tots, toiletries for Operation Sandbox (baby wipes, tooth brushes, tooth paste, petroleum jelly, hand sanitizer, etc.) and any food item for the Food Bank.

 Lions will also hold their "White Cane" event before the Parade begins. They will be in a White Cane golf cart asking for monetary donations for the Georgia Lions Lighthouse to be used primarily for eye surgeries. Money raised throughout the state for White Cane can be combined to offer services to people who, without the Lions of Georgia, might have no hope.

 Some of the laws governing the White Cane in Georgia are: those carrying white canes are afforded the right of way when crossing a road or when in a pubic place, any driver that comes within 3 feet of an individual using a white cane must come to a complete stop and proceed only after taking necessary precautions to avoid accident or injury to the person with the cane and drivers must yield the right of way to any blind pedestrian who is carrying a white cane or is accompanied by a guide dog.

 The U. S. Army Quintet at the Courthouse will perform at the courthouse stand before the parade.

 More than 100 Christmas floats, high school bands, troops, decorated horses and more will start our Christmas season with the theme of our parade.

 All will make the 1.2-mile trek from Newton Drive, around the square and back. Floats will be judged and awarded before the parade and will be recognized at the courthouse stand. The "Overall Best Entry" will be awarded last.

 In 2005, the parade’s first year, the Oxford College development office encouraged to get involved with the new celebration. It was seen as a chance to spread some good cheer to students who were busy with finals and could use a study break. So they built a float to look like Santa’s sleigh. It made an appearance in parade that year, complete with student passengers, white garland and a strategically placed Oxford banner.

 Thanks to the creativity of the FM staff Oxford doubled its floats in 2007 and added Christmas tree complete with seating for students. The 2008 parade will once again feature Oxford floats as well as some additional guests.

 Two current and past adopted dogs (who are part of Oxford’s POOCH program) have been invited to participate in the parade. POOCH (Pets of Oxford Community Hotline) is a student-run, foster and adoption program for dogs founded in 2002 by Sandi Schein, director of the Oxford Counseling Center, and Gayle Doherty, associate professor of physical education.

 The pups will walk alongside Oxford student athletes dribbling basketballs and passing out candy. Other students from various clubs and organizations also sit on the floats and sip hot chocolate and sing Christmas carols.

 Many other businesses and community organizations have designed their own floats.

 For safety purposes, Lions and representatives will direct the parade flow at major sites. Floats must maintain a 30-foot distance from each other and bands remain within the parade route dimension. Only one vehicle will be permitted per float. Any and all are welcome to participate with the agreement that all must abide by the rules of safety set forth. Lions also ask that all visitors remain behind the designated rails.

 The Covington Lions Club and Main Street Covington also have announced there will

be specially marked collection bins along the parade route Saturday, where they are asking attendees and participants to deposit canned foods for donation to the Newton County Community Food Pantry.

 The bins (large red trash cans) will be placed at the four corners and in the center of the square, near Amici Italian Café, RL’s on the Square, Ramsey Furniture, the stage in front of the courthouse and at the parade staging area on Newton Drive.

 Sunday, Friends of the Park will also have collection bins at the entrance to the Twilights at Chimney Park event, which will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the future site of Chimney Park, behind the Newton County Library on Floyd Street.

 The Community Food Pantry has seen unprecedented demand in the face of difficult economic conditions, forcing them to close their doors last month for only the second time in more than 20 years of operation. While the community has responded with donations to allow the pantry to resume operations since Nov. 10, the challenge remains and the need is ongoing.

 "The Christmas Parade is already such a focal point for bringing our entire community together," said Main Street Covington Director Josephine Kelly. "The Food Pantry needs our support, and this seemed like the perfect vehicle. Ed Minge and the Lions Club were very receptive to the idea. And, it made perfect sense to extend this to the Twilights at Chimney Park event, too."

 Volunteers are still needed to staff the donation bins during the parade and also to transfer the donated canned goods to the Food Pantry after the parade. If you can help, please contact Maurice Carter at (7700 786-4493 or mauricec7@bellsouth.net.

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