Just in time for Norristown's Bicentennial Celebration, our hometown is playing host to Pennsylvania's (and some of New Jersey's) everyday heroes for a three-day convention culminating with a spectacle of a parade on Saturday – the 2012 Firemen’s Association of the State of Pennsylvania Convention has arrived!
The convention kicks off today, with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. at the Montgomery County Fire Academy on Conshohocken Road in Plymouth and ends Saturday with a spectacular parade through the streets of Norristown, featuring over 300 firetrucks and emergency service vehicles, 13 bands and firefighters from all over the state (and some from New Jersey) in their parade finery.
In between, firefighters will attend training sessions and discussion panels and meet to handle industry business. Most of the events will be firefighters only, but the public is invited to stop by the fire academy this morning to see the opening ceremony and join firefighters tonight for an open house from 6 to 11 p.m. at Montgomery Hose Fire Company at Pine and Freedly streets.
On Saturday, the public can join in the fun again when the entire convention holds a parade through the streets of Norristown. The parade will start at Marshall and Buttonwood streets at 1 p.m. and travel down Marshall to Astor Street, turn right at Astor to Main Street, and left on Main to Arch Street.
A judging stand will be erected at the Montgomery County Courthouse where a professional pannel of judges will grade the companies on apparatus, marching, and appearance.
Of special note at this year's parade will be a memorial for fallen Plymouth Township Police Officer Bradley Fox and Philadelphia Fire Department's Ladder 10 which lost two of its firefighters in a warehouse fire earlier this year. Center Square Fire Company will be marching with Rescue 33, dedicated this year to the memory of 8-year-old Nicholas Mincarelli, of Plymouth Meeting, who lost his battle with a rare form of cancer in March of this year. Riding along with Rescue 33 will be 14-year-old Bobby Taggert, of Upper Moreland, along with his twin brother, Johnny, and their parents. Bobby is recovering from limb salvage surgery after having a cancerous tumor and part of his bone removed earlier this year. His wish to ride Rescue 33 is being granted at Saturday's parade.
"This is Norristown's sixth convention," said Norristown Fire Chief Thomas O'Donnell. "The first convention we held was in 1894."
"Obviously this year's a big year, not only for the fire department because we're hosting it," continued O'Donnell. "It's also the town's bicentennial celebration and it's the closing event."
"In 1962, we hosted the state firefighter convention's parade then, which commemorated the town’s 150th,” said Chief O’Donnell. "We’re kind of repeating history a little bit.”
In addition to attending the parade and opening ceremony, residents and visitors to Norristown can celebrate and support our firefighters by buying official convention merchandise that will be sold along the parade route. Norristown Area High School will also be producing a DVD of the parade and proceeds from DVD sales will go to support programs at the high school.
The Norristown Fire Department has been planning the details for the 2012 convention for several years, lead by convention Chair Jim Mullane and Co-Chairman Tony Barbato. Mullane and Barbato will keen to point out that money for the convention would not be coming from Norristown's taxpayers.
"There is no expense to the taxpayer," said Barbato. "We've raised the money."
Their fundraising efforts, along with support from the county and state have ensured that this year's convention will be a top-notch affair.
Norristown firefighters and the Public Works Department continue to work to clean up the area of the parade route and Chief O'Donnell is hoping residents and business owners will pitch in and do their part to help Norristown look it's best.
"Anything that brings people to town and helps them come out and have an enjoyable time is really what we're looking for," said Chief O'Donnell. "We're encouraging all the businesses to decorate and help out, cleaning up in front of their businesses. Same thing with the homeowners. We want them to welcome everyone to town. There’s going to be a lot of people in town and we just want to put our best foot forward."
Fore more information on the convention and parade, go to the Norristown Fire Department's website.