Firefighters Enjoy Carnival and Parades
Camaraderie among fire fighters is legendary. Although quite obviously fighting fires is the primary reason for the existence of fire companies, not only do the members come to one another's aid in the fighting of fires, but they also enjoy social activities and competition. Mutual aid, conventions, parades and other social activities have been a part of a fire company's life since the beginning.
The custom of mutual aid had been in existence since the beginning of organized fire companies, but it was formally established during World War II as part of civil defense. The local plan was developed by Rochester Fire Chief Thomas Coates with the help of Fairport's Chief, Clair Stewart.
The plans were practiced and refined and volunteers were able to learn from each other. Among many examples from those early years of mutual aid, fire companies came from Pittsford and East Rochester to aid in fighting a major fire at American Can, and Fairport's volunteers responded to requests for aid during a fire at Kodak, on South Avenue and in Brighton during the 1950's. Today mutual aid continues to be common practice.
The first Fairport firemen's parade was held on Oct. 11, 1877, mere months after their incorporation. The Fairport band headed the parade and was followed by the newly purchased Hook and Ladder truck and hose cart, which had its lamp burning. The 48 firemen wore uniforms of red flannel shirts, blue trousers with wide black belts and large rubber hats. Both the DeLand Fire Company and Fairport Hook and Ladder Company participated in out of town parades as well as local patriotic events. Both marched in the 1881 Decoration Day parade, which was the first time the Hook and Ladder Company had made a public appearance, and according to the "Fairport Herald", they had "new hats, with shirts, belts, and gloves. They are a fine looking body of young men, and although they may not have quite so much muscle as the old company, we believe they will do just as effective work in case they are called out by a fire".
Both companies marched to the "old cemetery" (Mt. Pleasant), and grouped around the soldier's memorial there for services. In 1882, both also marched in the annual fire parade of the village of Newark. In 1885, the Hose Company traveled to Syracuse to march in the state parade. Each member was allotted $2 for lodging and meals and $1.30 for train fair.
The firemen instituted an annual supper almost immediately, and as the newspaper records, a second annual supper was held in 1878. The firemen were fed at the Osburn House where they were "filled, they were satisfied, and they were happy". After supper they heard speeches which "revive[d] the mental faculties", and listened to Ed Walsh's humorous verses. The "Fairport Herald" concluded that "... The DeLand Fire Company is now one of the features of our village".
Starting in 1896, the North-Central New York Volunteer Fireman's Association held an annual convention that featured parades and contests along with business meetings. It was noted that all three of Fairport's companies, DeLand Hose, Hook and Ladder, and Protectives, along with the "Fairport Military Band", were present at this first convention, which was held in Lyons. Contests included a hose race, a hook and ladder race, and a prize drill. Fairport hosted the annual convention in 1899. The program was held in Shaw's Hall on West Avenue and the paper reported that over 600 people attended. Special events included a balloon ascension and a race between a Winton automobile and a horse. The auto won the race, but some said that "the horse could have won the race if it had been driven to its limit".
The tradition of parades and carnivals continues. The departments are always a major presence in both the Memorial Day and Independence Day parades. In addition, the companies continue to participate in the annual Firemen's Associations Convention, as well as other festivals and firemen's carnivals in the state. In 1995, the 100th convention of the North Central New York Volunteer Firemen's Association was held in Fairport. Further, since 1989, the Fairport Fire Department Band, which was organized in 1972, has won seven Firefighters Association of the State of New York championships. In 1999, the band was honored with an invitation to play at Disney World. The group practices a good portion of the year in preparation for the numerous parades and competitions that they participate in during the spring and summer.
Members of the fire companies have also enjoyed competitive sporting events over the years. The Old Home Week booklet of 1908 shows the undefeated DeLand Hose Company's running team. The Hook and Ladder company also had a running team, probably at about the same time. Today the tradition continues with the Fire Department softball team and golf league. The department also sponsors a Little League Team.
Quite obviously the volunteers of the Fairport Fire Department devote considerable energy not only to their firefighting duties, but also to their social and recreational events.