FireFest is back for a sixth year of vintage fire rigs, fire safety and history, and lots of free family entertainment Sept. 22 and 23 in Chatham.
According to FireFest co-organizer Brent DeNure, the event begins Friday night at Boonies Drive-In Movie Theatre in Tilbury, featuring the original 1984 Ghostbusters movie, and two new releases including the Lego Movie. Thanks to the St. Clair College Alumni Association, the first 175 carloads of people will get in free, with gates opening at 6:30 p.m.
DeNure said there will be a parade of vintage firetrucks and emergency services vehicles, led by the Ghostbusters Ecto-1 car along Queen Street in Tilbury and then they will be on display at Boonies.
On Sept. 23 in downtown Chatham starting at 10 a.m., fire trucks, police cars and emergency services vehicles will be on display on King Street between Second and Fifth streets, and there will plenty of other activities going on, including safety demos, the Junior F.I.R.E. Challenge Course sponsored by the St. Clair College Alumni Association, an auto extrication and fire response demonstration by Chatham-Kent Fire and Emergency Services personnel, The Magical Fireman with magic and storytelling, and the band FireSound, featuring members of the Toronto Fire Department.
The parade of vehicles this year, at 4 p.m. on Saturday, is following a different route due to road construction, according to DeNure. It will follow King Street West, north on Merritt Avenue to Riverview Drive and west on Riverview to Keil Drive, over the bridge into the Thames Lea Plaza parking lot.
DeNure said organizers will also be bringing some education and history to the weekend with a 50th anniversary tribute to the Detroit Riots, with stories from people who served; and an appearance by Lt. John Thiede, the Michigan firefighter who rescued the only survivor of Northwest Airlines Flight 225, which crashed in 1987 shortly after takeoff from Detroit.
With vehicle owners expected from as far as way as Buffalo, Columbus and Illinois, DeNure expects to draw crowds totaling up to 15,000 people as the event continues to grow in popularity.
“It’s a free family event and gives people a chance to get close to the rigs that they might only see flying by them,” DeNure said. “It’s a very captivating, very inspirational event.”
He noted that one person came forward just this year and said that being exposed to emergency services through FireFest encouraged the person to choose a career in emergency services.
Mayor Randy Hope congratulated the FireFest committee on all the work they put into organizing FireFest.
“It’s no easy task to organize this event and we’re on Year Six now, after the birth of something really good,” Hope said. “One thing that really impresses me is FireFest is also about recruitment and keeping people engaged in emergency services. People get inspired to be full-time or volunteer firefighters.”