Palo Alto residents looking for something to do in September will not find the search difficult. The month is packed with community events, from charity bike rides to forums with candidates seeking election in November.
This coming weekend kicks off with the first in a series of League of Women Voters of Palo Alto events aimed at educating the public on candidates and ballot measures in the Nov. 6 election. Information is available at www.lwvpaloalto.org.
On Saturday, Sept. 15, the six Palo Alto City Council candidates vying for four open seats will discuss their backgrounds, qualifications and views on city issues from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 505 E. Charleston Road. The event is free and open to the public.
The candidates for council and Board of Education will also be on hand at the Midtown neighborhood's Ice Cream & Issues social on Sunday, Sept. 16, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Hoover Park.
For those looking for a less heady way to spend the day, Sunday's Gran Fondo and Echelon Challenge will combine bicycling and food at an Italian-inspired bike ride and festival in downtown Palo Alto.
Italian professional cyclist Michele Scarponi will headline this year's Gran Fondo (Italian for "big ride"), which features courses of 30 miles, 75 miles and 95 miles.
The two longer courses take riders over the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean before looping back to Palo Alto. Elevation changes of thousands of feet will challenge riders.
Participants not looking to spend hours on a bike seat can take part in the Echelon Challenge, a 0.6-mile loop around downtown Palo Alto for walkers, joggers and cruiser bikes.
Hunter Ziesing, executive director of Echelon, the San Francisco-based nonprofit hosting the event, estimates that up to 1,200 people will participate this year.
More than 40 charities are expected to benefit from fundraising by Gran Fondo and Echelon Challenge participants. Information on the event can be found at www.echelongranfondo.org.
The following weekend will play host to planes, balloons and dogs, among other activities.
At Palo Alto Airport Day on Saturday, Sept. 22, kids ages 8 to 17 years old can fly for free in a small aircraft, taking off from the airport at the eastern end of Embarcadero Road. Tours of the Federal Aviation Administration Control Tower will show how air-traffic controllers work to keep the skies safe and orderly. The aviation open house, taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. will also feature various aircraft and exhibits.
Information is available at www.paloaltoairport.aero.
That evening, Light the Night, a benefit walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, will take place in and around Palo Alto High School. Organizers expect up to 750 people for the event, a fundraiser for research and support.
One of the signatures of the walk are lit helium balloons, carried by walkers to symbolize their connection to leukemia or lymphoma: white for patients and survivors, red for supporters and gold for those walking in someone's memory.
"The combination of balloons being lit and the reasons for carrying them -- it's a very meaningful evening," said Jeff Scanlan, one of the event organizers. "There's a story surrounding each balloon. People are able to connect with people they've never met before. There's always a story."
Though last year's walk raised $80,000, the goal this year is $130,000, Scanlan said. Palo Alto's is one of 200 walks taking place around the nation.
Given the city's proximity to Stanford University, where the work of about a dozen blood researchers is partially funded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Scanlan said he is optimistic that support for the nonprofit could grow.
The event will start at 5 p.m. with food and activities. The two-mile walk to downtown Palo Alto and back will begin at 7 p.m. There's no registration fee to participate, but those who raise $100 receive a wristband for food and a T-shirt.
Information is available at www.lightthenight.org/sj/.
Additional events taking place on Saturday, Sept. 22, include Quakeville, the annual Humanitarian Awards Dinner at Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills, the Vital Aging Conference sponsored by Peninsula Volunteers' Little House in Menlo Park, and Responsible Dog Owner's Day at the Palo Alto Animal Shelter on East Bayshore Road.
The following week will see events including the Palo Alto International Film Festival, the Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run, the Hurricane Music Festival for teens and the Palo Alto Black and White Ball.
This story has been updated to reflect the following correction:
The Sept. 20 voters' forum with state Senate and Assembly candidates has been postponed.