WESTMINSTER — Disappointed at the second year of cancellations of Fourth of July celebrations due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Westminster Fire Department decided to do something about it.
“We didn’t want a second year to go by without some recognition of this holiday,” said June Streeter of Westminster, who worked to organize the Sunday morning event with her husband, Westminster Fire Chief Cole Streeter.
Westminster, along with most of the area fire departments, usually heads to Saxtons River for that village’s traditional parade, and a firefighters’ water polo competition after the parade.
Instead, Westminster has organized a traveling parade of fire trucks — starting at the Westminster Central School, headed to Westminster West and then along the Westminster West Road to Saxtons River, and then down Route 121 through Gageville to Bellows Falls, and back to Westminster.
June Streeter said she has driven the route at 35 miles an hour and the 23 1/2 -mile route takes about 50 minutes.
The fire truck cavalcade will leave the Westminster school at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, the morning of the Fourth. Participants are asked to line up starting at 10 a.m., she said.
Fire departments participating in all or part of the parade include Westminster, Saxtons River, Rockingham, Grafton, Bellows Falls, and North Walpole, N.H. A couple of antique cars will also be in the parade, as well as a couple of highway trucks from Westminster, she said.
“This is an important holiday,” Streeter said. “We didn’t want this holiday forgotten, again,” she said.
Eight trucks from Westminster will be in the parade, along with two from Grafton, two from Bellows Falls, two from North Walpole, one from Saxtons River and three from Rockingham.
In the event of an emergency, fire trucks will be able to leave “at any time,” she said. She said the Vermont State Police and the Windham County Sheriff’s Department have also been invited to participate, and she said she expects the Bellows Falls Police Department to join once the parade reaches Bellows Falls. Golden Cross Ambulance will participate if they aren’t on a call, she said.
While Saxtons River has postponed its traditional parade and celebration out of concern about the coronavirus pandemic, the village will have a “fun run” starting at 8:30 a.m., with a reading of the Declaration of Independence by local actor Jeanie Levesque, followed by bell ringing and patriotic songs, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Streeter said she believes the fire department parade will likely reach Saxtons River at about 11 a.m., and not create any conflict with the two events scheduled earlier.
She said that the department’s tower truck will broadcast patriotic music along the parade route. Fire departments will use their horns and sirens for accent occasionally, she said. The fire department has purchased a Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam costume, as well as plenty of patriotic bunting, she said.
The parade route, once it reaches Bellows Falls at Red Light Hill, will travel down Atkinson Street, and then pass through the downtown area, before heading back to Westminster along Route 5.