CANTON — Fire trucks, firefighters and fireworks were out in full force here Saturday to mark the 150 anniversary of the Canton Volunteer Fire Department.
Dozens of people gathered for the celebration which began with a parade of new and vintage fire and rescue vehicles down Main Street and then to the fire station, 77 Riverside Drive.
The day’s festivities ended with fireworks at Canton Central’s Hugh C. Williams High School.
Michael Pinckney, a Canton resident and retired state trooper, said he felt it was important to attend the parade and show support for the fire department which dates back to 1869.
“They’ve been providing a service to the community for a century and a half,” said Mr. Pinckney who was joined by his son, Brandon, an eighth grader at Canton Central School.
Mr. Pinckney has two older sons who are Canton Fire Department members, Jonathan, 24, and James, 20.
“They like to give back to the community and they like the camaraderie of the department,” he said.
Fire vehicles from several other St. Lawrence County communities joined the parade including Potsdam, Morley, Rensselaer Falls, Norfolk, Ogdensburg, Morristown, Brier Hill, Lisbon, Heuvelton, Hannawa Falls, West Stockholm, Madrid, DeKalb Junction, Colton and Norwood.
Lawrence Aldous, a life-long Canton resident, and his wife, Shirley Aldous, sat in lawn chairs on Riverside Drive waiting for the fire trucks to turn off Main Street. Their son, Dan Aldous, is a member.
Mr. Aldous, 86, said he remembers that the Canton fire trucks of his youth were terribly slow compared to today’s vehicles.
“Good God, you could almost run as fast as it was going,” he recollected.
After the parade, more than 100 people headed to fire station where historical displays were set up, including an album with newspaper clippings and vintage apparatus. Visitors could also watch a slide show of fire scenes and Canton firefighters in action.
Robin Votra Dafoe brought her father, Elmer Votra, 90, to see the displays. He served as a Canton firefighter for 63 years, including serving as the department’s mechanic.
“He’d always go out at calls at one or two in the morning,” Mrs. Dafoe recalled from her childhood.
The celebration drew many young kids who had the chance to jump in bounce houses and try out an obstacle course where they pulled hoses, swung hammers and squirted a firehose at a target.
Visitors also got up close with fire trucks and fire gear. Live music and a free barbecue added to the festive atmosphere.
Fire Chief Robert Crowe accepted proclamations from James E. Reagen, on behalf of state Sen. Patricia Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and from state Assemblyman Mark Walczyk, R-Watertown.
Mr. Reagen said he remembered covering a fire many years ago in Canton when he was editor of the St. Lawrence Plaindealer, a former Canton newspaper.
It was a January day when the temperature was about 30 below zero.
“I’ll never forget seeing one of the Canton firefighters standing there with his hose, hosing the building. He was encased in ice. The water was splashing back and he looked like a statue, frozen, but still making sure that fire didn’t spread. It made an important impression on me throughout my career, “ Mr. Reagen said.
Mr. Walczyk said he was impressed with the number of people who gathered for the celebration.
“It’s excellent to have so much community out here,” Mr. Walczyk said. “As we watch some of the fraternal organizations and community involvement die down this speaks to the core of the county seat and the great patriotism and community support you have for this fire department, 150 years later and still going strong.”