The town of Townsend will hold its 8th annual fall parade and festival Saturday. This year's events are bigger than ever, with nearly 60 vendors and 50 parade participants. The day will also include contests for people and pets as well as performances and demonstrations.

Townsend Councilwoman Lorraine Gorman said that the town's 8th annual parade and fair is going to be different this year. How so? Expect it to be bigger, longer and more inclusive.

"We started planning much earlier this year and it's grown so much," Gorman said. "Not only is there more to do at the fair but there will be activities, contests and vendors there all day."

Gorman is serious about the expansion of the event, which she sees as a real opportunity to unite the community. That doesn't mean that spectators will only see Townsend participants, though. She and the town have reached out to nearby communities and people can expect a parade that will likely last close to an hour.

Parade participants include the Smyrna High School Band, antique cars, Miss Delaware, Tom Pollutri's Batmobile, the Delaware State Police Horse Patrol, the MOT Line Dancers, the Nur Shriners on miniature motorcycles and 43 other participants eager to stomp down Main Street to the Townsend Municipal Park in Townsend Village.

Once the parade culminates at the park, visitors will be greeted by nearly 60 merchants selling everything from handmade baby clothes and blankets, purses and jewelry to golf carts, photographers, non-profit agencies and art.

Activities, contests, entertainment and demonstrations have also been scheduled:

11:15 a.m. MOT Line Dancers

11:30 a.m. Life House Church Children's Choir

11:45 a.m. Miss Delaware

12 p.m. Pet contests (costume, best tricks)**

1 p.m. Hula Hoop contest*

1:30 p.m. Delaware State Police canine demonstration

2 p.m. Free throw contest at the basketball court*

TBA Delaware State Police helicopter landing

*small prizes will be awarded

No one will go hungry either. Nearly a dozen food vendors like Half Baked Patisserie and Chick-fil-A will be serving up lots of walkable fare. The Townsend Fire Company has even agreed to move the date of its monthly barbeque to coincide with Saturday's events.

Proceeds from the day will go to upkeep and improvement projects at the park.

"One reason we hold the fair at the park is to remind people that it's there for them to use," Gorman said. "We want people to see the beautiful trees, the walking trail with exercise stations, the pavilion and the three different jungle gyms."

However, this year's events also hold a broader purpose, too. Gorman said that she's hoping the day's expansion will boost community involvement and that people will step forward with ideas for more events.

"We've done our best to plan a fun day where everyone can have a good time," Gorman said. "I know that most families have fall sports in the morning but I hope they'll stop by afterwards to see some of our afternoon activities. Plus, the weather is going to be perfect. I mean, what better way to kick off fall?"

And, while the event ends at 3 p.m., the memories will last much longer thanks to a local volunteer who will be taking pictures throughout the day. Those pictures will then be uploaded to the "Town of Townsend, Delaware" Facebook page.

**Registration for the pet contests end at 5 p.m., Wednesday. Pet owners can register their pets for "best costume," "best trick" or both. Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place in each category. There is no registration cost but interested participants must visit to print the registration form. Once printed, there are three options for submission: Fax the form to (302) 378-7099; Drop the form off at the Town of Townsend Hall, 661 South St., Townsend; Drop the form off at Concord Pet Foods and Supplies, 340 E. Main St., Middletown.