On Saturday the Highland Hose Company hosted the annual Ulster County Firemen’s Parade, which coincided with their own 125th anniversary. Planning began six years ago and it all paid off – with perfect weather and about 35 fire companies showing up to proudly march through town in full uniform. The parade ended at the town field where hamburgers, hot dogs and refreshments were served free of charge to the strains of country music. The evening came to a close with a spectacular fireworks display.
Mike DePaola is not only a member of the Highland Fire Department but is President of the Ulster County Volunteer Firemen’s Association. He keeps all of the volunteer firefighters abreast of what is happening in the field in Ulster County.
DePaola loves being part of the fire service and protecting his community. He started at the age of 18 as a ‘probie’ and worked his way up the ladder. He is presently Fire Police Lieutenant in Highland and is also President of the Ulster County Fire Police Association.
“This parade I dedicate to my mom [Judy DePaola] who died of cancer six years ago,” he said. “When I lost her it was hard but she’s the one who gave me all the strength to go as far as I did; she was there for me.”
In recent years DePaola attended numerous meetings to prepare for the parade down to the littlest detail.
Firefighter Jim Balint chaired the Planning Committee for the parade. He said Saturday’s parade, “was one of the best Convention Parades we’ve ever had in Ulster County.” He said scheduling the parade later in the day, with step off at 6 p.m., was a welcome relief from marching in the heat of the day.
“I think we changed the culture in Ulster County at least from what I heard from a couple of places,” he said. “The crowds were phenomenal because people do not want to come out for a 1 p.m. parade in July but come out for a late afternoon one.”
Balint thanked his VP on the Planning Committee John Gallagher, the fire officers, the social offices, members of the Hose Company, the Ladies Auxiliary, the Fire Commissioners including Grand Marshal Steve DiLorenzo and Mobile Life EMT Services.
Balint also thanked the Lloyd Highway Department for helping clean up after the event and Police Chief Dan Waage and Sgt. Phil Roloson and the entire Police Department for, “making our lives so much easier.”
Fire Chief Peter Miller said the parade went very well.
“I think we put on a good event for all our guests that came and we’ve gotten a lot of appreciative comments on how it went down and how it was presented,” he said.
Miller thanked the Knights of Columbus for serving the beer and the Highland Rotary Club for cooking all of the food. He said the Town of Lloyd Police, “were exceptionally cooperative in their assistance helping us put it all together and made sure it all worked as far as the parade route and traffic.” Miller said they also had four Deputy Fire Coordinators from Ulster County attend who, “really stepped up and helped us out with the full parade line up and parking of the apparatus after the parade.”
At the town field the Hillbilly Parade Band performed a variety of top 40 country music. They are band leader Jason Casterlin on guitar, Jay Ganz on pedal steel, Cheyenne See on Vocals, Mark Lowe on guitar, Chris Palestro on bass, Christian Cea on drums and John Repko on keyboards.
Casterlin loves being a part of summer outdoor events, “and anything to do with fire departments and people who save our lives every day.”
Cheyenne See has been singing with the band since March of this year.
“This is awesome because there are a lot of people and it’s always cool to see friends and family,” she said.
Just before the fireworks, the Highland Fire Department handed out numerous trophies, with the final and most coveted one for Best Appearing Overall going to the Kerhonkson Fire Department.