MEADVILLE — Editor’s note: Knowing the hard, unpaid work that area volunteer fire departments put in day after day, The Meadville Tribune is publishing a four-day series to depict just what it takes to be a volunteer firefighter. We’re also publishing this series as a public call to action to help the volunteer departments, which are always in need of funding and more firefighters. Today’s story focuses on the annual state firemen’s convention and parade, which is September 24 to 27 in Meadville.
Meadville will once again play host to hundreds of firefighters from around the state for the 135th annual Pennsylvania State Firemen’s Convention and Parade, held in late September this year.
The convention includes organizational meetings, safety presentations, a memorial service and award ceremony for attending firefighters and a parade for the public.
Members of the Crawford County Firemen’s Association (CCFA) and West Mead Township No. 2 fire department, which comprise the conference committee, expect to add more community involvement this year.
“It’s a good way to show what Meadville has to offer,” said Chuck Prenatt, parade committee member. “It’s a big thing.”
Meadville hosted the 2004 convention, considered by many present to be one of the largest they’d ever attended at the time.
Prenatt believes more than 100 fire departments were involved, complete with parade marching units and fire engines of all shapes and sizes. Several departments even praised Meadville for its hospitality, he said.
And that’s what this year’s committees are hoping for.
Hundreds of firefighters will return, hotels will be booked solid and Meadville will have the opportunity to try something new this year and showcase its attractions, according to Brian Knickerbocker, conference committee chair.
“We’re going to try and incorporate commercial entities like in the (Meadville) Halloween parade,” he said, mentioning a possible donation required to accept company entries for floats and marching units in the parade, the theme of which is fire prevention and safety.
Aside from marching bands involved, the parade, which is set for Sept. 27, is largely silent as a result of the sheer volume of fire trucks, which will be limited to flashing some lights, Knickerbocker said.
Additionally, the Firemen’s Association is opening the floor to local businesses willing to help cover the convention costs with parade donations/involvement and advertisements planned for an ad book to be circulated throughout the conference.
“We’re looking for community support,” Prenatt said, including ads, fliers and promotional items to put in grab bags for convention attendees registering for meetings.
Firefighters will be able to register at the Days Inn Meadville Conference Center, the convention headquarters, which also sets up tourism opportunities and a potential return on investments of local businesses in the conference, Knickerbocker said.
“The families of those several hundred firefighters, auxiliary members, legionnaires, etc., are coming here go shopping, sight-seeing and eat at local restaurants,” he said. “It’s quite a spectacle.”
Reports from the previous Meadville-hosted conference mentioned convention-goers and their families having potentially spent between $500,000 and $1 million in the region during their stay.
“That might be a little high,” Prenatt admitted, “but we hope something like that happens again.”
While hosting the conference requires months of work and organization, it has its regional benefits, including drawing funds for an annual essay scholarship awarded to eligible high school seniors volunteering in emergency service or related to an emergency service member, according to Knickerbocker.
Funds raised through the convention may also benefit the local Fire Prevention Smoke House, a mobile house-like unit that teaches fire safety and injury prevention, as well as the Crawford-Venango Fire School or other departmental projects with any funds left over.
Community support will ultimately maximize the potential for additional funding, Knickerbocker said.
Any individuals, agencies or companies interested in supporting the conference are encouraged to contact the CCFA and event organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible so everything can be finalized by summertime.
Monetary donations or promotional items can also be dropped off or mailed to Crawford County Firemen’s Association, 20607 Ryan Road, Meadville, Pa. 16335.
More information: Visit the 2014 PA State Fireman’s 135th Convention Facebook page.
You can go
The 135th Annual Convention of the Firemen’s Association of Pennsylvania is Sept. 24 to 27 in Meadville, hosted by the Crawford County Firemen’s Association. Proceeds from the convention will help fund the safety house and scholarship programs. The convention will conclude with a parade of entries from all over the commonwealth on Sept. 27.
Parade registration is at convention headquarters at the Days Inn in Vernon Township during the convention and at Big Lots parking lot by the Downtown Mall from 7 to 11 a.m. Parade judging is at Penn Plaza from 7 a.m. to noon.
The parade starts at 1 p.m. and the lineup is on Bessemer Street. The parade will go from Bessemer to Terrace to Market to Chestnut Street, around Diamond Park, and to South Main Street.