Annual fire parade celebrates 65 years of tradition and fun

October 10, 2018

HUNTINGTON—Through the wide eyes of a child, it’s plain to see how Huntington’s Fire Prevention Parade developed into a such a beloved annual staple.

Having lit up downtown for now 65 years, those children who lined the street in the early years have now grown to the point their grandchildren may be the ones filling their bags with candy — handed out from a convoy of fire trucks that have long since modernized from the first parades.

But little more has changed since then, and there’s little change likely in the future, for the annual celebration of fire prevention and the firefighting spirit so many have come to love.

“What kid doesn’t love fire trucks? It really is a dream job that everybody has,” said Sam Roy, a private with Huntington Fire Department’s Station 2 by Marshall University, now in his second year at the helm of organizing the parade. “The kids eat it up, and fire prevention is just a really good cause to get behind and educate people about.”

As usual, hundreds of spectators staked out their spot on the sidewalk long before the first siren sounded. Local high school marching bands. Scout troops and civic organizations filled in between a seemingly endless stream of blaring sirens and shiny, red engines. The parade also crowned Miss Ember, Miss Spark, and Miss Flame — local elementary, middle and high school pageant and essay contest winners.

Around 20 local volunteer departments participate each year, rolling in miles from outside their service areas as far away as Parkersburg, Roy said.

But for as many moving parts and participants as there are, Roy said everything just seems to fall into place. Because nothing changes year-to-year, all the same participants know when and where to show up.

“Everyone looks forward to the parade, so they all already know what to do,” Roy said. “There’s a bit of a learning curve in organizing it, but it all just seems to fall together on its own.”

It’s also a big night for the hundreds of fire patrol students from local elementary schools, all marching along draped in their fluorescent orange and yellow belts.

Chloe Burkey carried one end of the banner for Guyandotte Elementary School, with around 20 of her 4th-and 5th-grade classmates following behind. It’s a huge annual event in their school year — and a lot of steps to take along the parade route — but a much-anticipated and happy time.

“We’re all so excited because we’re representing Guyandotte,” Burkey said.

National Fire Prevention Week, which gave rise to the parade, has its roots in the Great Chicago Fire on Oct. 8, 1871, which killed 300 people and left 900 homeless. Huntington’s first parade took place Oct. 13,1955, and was a mix of marching units and demonstrations in ladder handling.

The theme of this year’s parade was “Look. Listen. Learn.”

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter at @BishopNash.

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