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Firefighters’ Big Day

Southern Maryland volunteers strut 70 years of service

Convention Chairman Captain Donald ­Gibson (left) and soon-to-be Southern Maryland president Dale Bowen have planned a weekend to dazzle.

When a volunteer fire department and a small town come together to host the 70th anniversary of the Southern Maryland Volunteer Fire Department, the result is not your average party but a big city, bright lights affair.
    Hosting all 40 departments from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties for the first time since 1987, the Huntingtown Volunteer Fire Department promises two days, April 29 and 30, rife with tradition and ceremony.
    “We want it to be a signature event,” said Captain Donald Gibson, convention chairman. Gibson and soon-to-be Southern Maryland president Dale Bowen have planned a weekend to dazzle. Gibson wanted the event to feel “personal, to stand out from years past.”
    The guest list includes firefighters, their families and state and local politicians, including Senate President Thomas V. ‘Mike’ Miller.
    The weekend begins with a memorial service honoring fallen fire fighters, with bagpipers sending chills up spines. Then some 300 guests sit down for the awards banquet, catered by Dream Weaver.
    “To my knowledge,” Gibson said, “no other firehouse has ever had a full-service meal.”
    Sunday, 200 fire trucks from three counties parade through town in a show of solidarity for the incoming department president. Local marching bands, dance troupes and a cavalry of riders and buggies join in the lively festivities. With all Southern Maryland’s firefighting equipment parading, Joppa-Magnolia and Grasonville volunteer companies are offering backup emergency support.
    Then come the games, a favorite of both firefighters and fans. Competitions include the time-honored fastest dressed obstacle course, EMS contest, bucket brigade and battle-of-the-bucket. Once the ground is sloppy wet from the water events, it’s time for tug-of-war. Gooey mud and slimy grass-filled puddles make perfect footing for departments sparing across a rope. Live music, food and other vendors fill out the day.
    “Huntington businesses, police, schools and townspeople plus every department in Calvert County have stepped up to help,” Bowen said. “I’m proud of Calvert County.”

Volunteer Fire Department parade Sunday, April 30 at 1pm rain or shine; firefighters competitions follow. Huntingtown Volunteer Fire Department: contact: ­Donald Gibson, [email protected]