For more than a century the people of Pickerington, Ohio, have celebrated Labor Day in a big way. And for 72 of those years, the Pickerington Lions Club has run the show. Past years have featured horse shows, flower shows, boxing matches, and horse races, but two things have always been constant: a parade and the Lion Club’s Fabulous Fish Fry.

Pickerington Lions pose on their float.
The Pickerington Lions’ float was one of more than 35 entries in this year’s stationery Labor Day parade.

“And then along came 2020,” says Lion Jeannie Mauger.

Down but not out, the Lions tossed around ideas of how they could carry on this tradition, especially important to Picktonians since every other community event for the summer had been canceled. With the COVID-19 state restrictions on group events, they couldn’t see any way they could comply.

But they are Lions and they figured it out. A drive-by parade with optional carryout fish dinners would entertain the town and keep their families safe.

With the backing of Pickerington’s Mayor Lion Lee Gray, the club enlisted a local restaurant to help with the fish dinners, and invited all of the usual parade participants — fire departments, car clubs, bands, community businesses, sports teams, and politicians to take part.

A firefighter truck with raised boom and flag started them off, and then progress was steady as the cars snaked down a little-traveled road that connects two main streets to one of the high schools.

At the end of the stationary parade, there was an optional loop to the fish fry where the restaurant handled the fish dinners, prepared and packaged on site.

Final tally: More than 35 parade entries, nearly 400 fish dinners sold, and 350-plus cars driving by the parade, representing more than 1,000 parade viewers.

“Community spirit was raised 1,000 percent,” says Mauger. “We received so many positive comments and thank-yous. One lady admitted that the neighborly get-together made her a little teary. And several parents said they liked this drive-through version better than a normal parade. There were no worries about parking or wrestling strollers, plus they could enjoy the AC in their vehicle