65th Annual Schuylkill Firemen’s Parade honors first responders
Members of West End Fire and Rescue of Mahanoy City march down Pine Street in Tamaqua on Saturday during the 65th Annual Schuylkill County Volunteer Firemen’s Convention Parade. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
The Pottsville Area High School Band passes the Tamaqua Community Arts Center about midway through the 1.5-mile parade route Saturday. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
A firetruck from the host Tamaqua Fire Department leads the line of entrants past the reviewing stand Saturday at the start of the 65th Annual Schuylkill County Volunteer Firemen’s Convention Parade. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
The lead musical entrant in Saturday’s Schuylkill County Firemen’s Convention Parade was the 205-member Tamaqua Area High School Raider Marching Band. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
One of the oldest pieces of firefighting equipment showcased Saturday at the Schuylkill County Firemen’s Convention Parade was this 1800s hose reel of Lehigh Fire Company of Lehighton. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
All eyes were on Tamaqua Saturday as more than 100 first response units from across the county arrived in town for the 65th Annual Schuylkill County Volunteer Firemen’s Convention Parade, the culmination of a vigorous week of activities hosted by the Tamaqua Fire Department.
A few thousand took advantage of perfect weather to spend the afternoon outdoors enjoying for the 90-minute parade which included six divisions, starting with an honor division of distinguished participants. Entries arrived from in-county and out-of-county, some as far away as Harrisburg and beyond.
Families gathered to spend the day together and show respect for those who devote themselves to the noble mission of saving lives and property.
For many spectators, the event served as a homecoming.
“I like this town. I come here about six times a year,” said Tim McRea of Media, who said his family was originally from Tamaqua although his parents and others are now gone.
“I was here in the 50s and 60s. Our home was near American Hose Fire Company,” said McRea. “My grandmother was a Barletta and her dad, Pete Barletta, had a tailor shop that served the coal miners.”
McRea, a photographer, and fellow photographer Jim Stanton of Springfield, made sure they arrived in time to see the entire parade.
Coal region hospitality was on full display throughout the day.
Not only were many homes and businesses decorated to welcome the visitors, but many opened their doors to offer food, beverages and bathroom facilities.
For example, Dan and Carol Reigel welcomed more than 60 family, friends and visitors at their centrally located Daniel Reigel Plumbing and Heating building on West Broad Street. There, all were invited to partake of a full buffet of home-cooked food, salads, and side dishes prepared by Carol.
“We do this at Memorial Day and Halloween, too, so this event today is a bonus,” said Dan.
The parade route went right past the Pine Street front door of Janis Wenzel, 87, who invited friends and relatives to join her for the day. The same scenario played out at a West Broad Street building owned by Steve and Liz Behun.
Liz posted a notice ahead of time on Facebook: “As always, the door is open and the toilet is available. Scout Troop 755 will be selling hot dogs and drinks to help fund their 2021 trip to the National Jamboree.”
As spectators enjoyed the day of camaraderie, highly polished firetrucks and emergency response equipment of every possible color passed a busy judges’ stand set up on Pine Street, as did fire company marching units in full dress uniform. Several high school bands took part, appearing in top form even though the school year hasn’t yet started. Bands included those from Tamaqua, Pottsville, Marian and North Schuylkill.
More than 50 trophies and awards were up for grabs.
The county convention is always special when held in Tamaqua because it honors its roots. The convention began in Tamaqua in 1955. Each year it’s held in a different community and returns to Tamaqua every 10 years.