Much like summer, fall has both an official start and an unofficial one.
Officially, fall begins Sept. 22.
Unofficially, the fall season commences when the kids go back to school, when football returns to the gridiron and when a cool breeze sweeps through the streets, sending the tanned arms of summer reaching for a sweater.
Kennywood Park, however, has been celebrating fall for weeks.
For the 64th year in a row, the amusement park in West Mifflin is hosting what it calls its Fall Fantasy Parades.
From Aug. 7 through Aug. 25, 154 college and marching bands parade through the park grounds as sunset arrives. And because it's a parade, they are joined by eight different floats.
"It's the way we celebrate the end of the summer season," said Jeff Filicko, public relations manager for Kennywood Park.
On a typical August night, thousands of people turn out or stick around to watch the parade, he said.
An event that started in the mid-20th century has become, for many families, a tradition. There are parents who marched in the parades themselves who now come to watch their children march in the band, Mr. Filicko said.
It's also a tradition for the bands, with many of them marking the parade as a finale to band camp and a precursor to the regular band season.
Each year, the parades have a theme. The first year, the theme was "Alice in Wonderland." This year, the theme is "Entertainment on Parade," so the floats, made by an outside contractor, offer tributes to magic and movies and amusement parks.
And if you thought it was early to celebrate fall, the final float may throw you for a loop. Each year, no matter the theme, the final float features Santa Claus.
Tonight (and every night through Sunday) the parade starts at 8 p.m. inside Kennywood Park.
It takes about 25 minutes to watch the bands from start to finish, and the park closes around 10 p.m..
The bands performing at Kennywood tonight hail from Allderdice High School, from Bethlehem-Center High School, Frazier High School, Leechburg High School, Penn Hills High School, West Mifflin High School and Williamsburg High School.
Attending the parade requires admission to the park. The regular entrance after 5 p.m. costs $24.99, or $12.99 for a senior. For people arriving in the evening to watch the parade, the park is offering coupons for $5 off the admission price on its website, www.kennywood.com.
Kennywood may have started celebrating fall in early August, but it will start observing it Monday, when the park closes for the start of the school year.
The park will be open weekends through mid-September, then off-and-on the rest of the year for special events, such as its Phantom Fright Nights for Halloween.
But daily operations, much like summer, will soon come to an end.
So Kennywood is throwing a parade --- several parades, to be more accurate.
"It's a great way to end the summer," Mr. Filicko said.
Kennywood Park is located at 4800 Kennywood Blvd. For more information, visit www.kennywood.com or call 412- 461-0500
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/