witches 2017 6

In this 2017 file photo, people participate in a "Witch's Ride" through downtown Florence. The event returns this year as a benefit for  United Way programs. [FILE/TIMESDAILY]

FLORENCE — A crowd of witches is set to flock to the streets of downtown on bikes and brooms Oct. 17, but these good witches will have only treats in store for local children.

“We’re coming back from a rainy year, so we’re hoping that this year we can bring more people out to get involved,” said LaKetta Williams, Success by 6 and Help Me Grow coordinator at United Way of Northwest Alabama.

United Way held its first “Witches Ride” in 2017 to support literacy for Shoals-area children through its Success by 6 program, which works to enroll children in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

That year’s event raised about $2,000, Williams said.

“It helped with 80 kids for the year,” she said. “We try to get kids in as early as possible, so from 0 to 6 you’re enrolled into a book program where you get free books for a year. It’s $25, basically, to sponsor a child for an entire year.”

While witches must be 15 years or older to participate in the parade, the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library will invite children in for “Spooky Story Time” beforehand to help them get in the Halloween spirit.

They’ll also be able to watch the witches ride by, and collect candy tossed their way.

Witches who ride will be up for awards like “Best Dressed” and “Best Broom.” Winners will receive a trophy.

“Everyone’s getting pretty pumped,” Williams said of the event.

The festivities will continue after the parade with appetizer specials at participating downtown restaurants and bars. According to Williams, that list included about 10 restaurants as of Wednesday.

Each will have a signature Halloween cocktail available for those 21 and older.

Williams said she is looking forward to participating in the "Witches Ride" and hopes to see a large turnout to support children’s literacy.

“With the more people that come out, the more funding and the more children that can get in the program,” she said.

In the event of rain, the Witches Ride will be rescheduled for Oct. 24.

—kendyl.hollingsworth@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5757. Follow on Twitter @TD_KendylH

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