Delaware firefighters cancel annual parade

A color guard unit leads the start of the annual Delaware Volunteer Firefighter’s Association parade on State Street in Dover last year. The association has announced that it will no longer hold the parade. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — With cost concerns and dwindling attendance as key factors, Delaware firefighters ended an over 90-year parade tradition during their annual state conference.

At their quarterly Delaware Volunteer Firefighter’s Association meeting on Sunday, members voted to eliminate the parade that began shortly after the organization was formed in 1921.

A DVFA committee analyzing yearly conference expenses presented the parade and its $20,000 cost as an option to be cut, which members approved during the meeting at the Dover Fire School. The committee is also considering costs associated with staying at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, and more discussion is expected at the next quarterly meeting in June, officials said.

According to DVFA Executive Manager Warren Jones, audience and fire company participation in the parade had been dropping for several years and “most of the people who went to it were our people.”

Crowd sizes were “considerably less” than several years ago, according to Mr. Jones.

While 30 to 40 companies typically participated in the event, Mr. Jones said, the bulk of the parade lineup came from Kent County.

The cost of renting rooms for judges, trophies, bandstand and stage space and refreshments strained the budget, Mr. Jones said, and led to the conference operating at a deficit the past few years.

Mr. Jones described the waning public interest as “a sign of the times” and said fewer firefighters took part because of other commitments and an overall drop in volunteers statewide.

“I’m sure there’s some sadness involved with the tradition ending,” Mr. Jones said. “Parades used to be quite popular but all our members today are extremely busy with fire and EMS calls and just don’t have as much spare time to devote.”

This year’s DVFA conference is scheduled for Sept. 12-16 in Dover.

The mile-plus parade route in Dover recently ran from the corner of State Street and Walker Road and culminated at The Green in the downtown area.

The Citizens’ Hose Company No. 1 of Smyrna’s marching band was an annual highlight reflected by over 30 Governor’s Cup awards for best fire company band performance.

Other award categories included fire company without band, ladies auxiliary marching unit, fire company color guard unit, school band, non-school band, drum major, Delaware fire apparatus, hand drawn antique, antique pumper (pre-1959), pumper (1959-1984), pumper (1985-present), rescue, pumper/rescue, aerial device, special unit, marine rescue vehicle, brush/field unit, chief/command vehicle, ambulance, Little Miss Fire Prevention, Pre-Teen Miss Fire Prevention, Miss Fire Prevention, Junior Miss Fire Prevention, and fire prevention float.

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