Slight rain showers could not stop the celebration of the 88th Annual Ulster County Volunteer Firefighters Fair on Saturday, July 29 in the Hamlet of Wallkill. The annual parade welcomed more than 20 fire companies and departments from the Ulster and Orange County region and beyond.
Wallkill Fire Department was tasked this year with the hosting and preparation of the parade as member Lance Booth served as president of the Ulster County Volunteer Firemen’s Association. For each acting president, their respective company hosts the parade and thus the location alternates each passing year.
As the step-off time drew closer on Saturday afternoon, fire apparatuses and department members lined up along River Road making their last- minute uniform checks and cleanings before marching. Fire companies brought with them several engines, both new and older models, along with their own respective Color Guards. Marching bands also played during the parade as companies followed behind in stride and in formation. Families and spectators lined the street and cheered on their companies.
Whether it be a family from Wallkill or a visiting family from over a half hour away, Booth was grateful for all who came to watch his department and all the other companies of Ulster County in full force and with pride. As each company/department chief passed near the parade’s end, Booth would shake their hands and thank them personally for attending.
“Everyone’s having a good time. It’s a great feeling to know that people are coming just to watch us as a whole and see what we do. It’s an honor to have representatives from all these departments come and show support to myself and this department,” said Booth. “I’d like to thank all the companies that came out and showed support and again I’d like to reiterate, I’d like to thank my parade committee and the department as a whole for supporting me as president.”
With children or adults in the crowd, Gary Specht Jr., who served as emcee, was able to see faces full of excitement as the companies made their way past. “I’m glad we got through it with the weather. As I knew we would, we persevered. Everybody pulled together,” said Specht. “It’s definitely exhilarating seeing everybody enjoy themselves after the fact.”
Specht also gave a special shoutout to his daughter Deanna who helped out with behind the scenes paperwork and equally thanked his family at Wallkill Fire Department for making the event a success.
Past Wallkill Fire Chief Joe LoCicero, who led the department at the beginning of the parade lineup, was also equally grateful for his department and the help in putting this event together. Though the volunteer service has seen limited numbers, his hope is that this parade will lead to new member interest and inspire young children to join when they are older.
“The Ulster County Parade is an awesome parade. It’s an honor for us to host it. It’s a community effort,” said LoCicero. “Having this parade and having the people come out and actually see us in force and see what the fire trucks and the colors and the uniforms and all the stuff, I think that some people might say, ‘Hey, that looks like something I’d be interested in.’”
During the parade, the Orange County Judges Association judged varying categories such as the company’s Color Guards, the company uniforms and apparatuses or each respective company’s Women’s Auxiliaries as they made their appearances down the walkway. Trophies were handed out in the evening for winners of the respective categories who were announced later that evening.
“We cleaned the fire trucks the best we can. We tried to stay in step with the band. Whatever happens, happens,” said Matthew Kneeter, 1st Assistant Chief of Milton Engine Company 1. “I think everybody that came everybody had a good time.”