2018 to be the last year for Firefest

Brent DeNure (left) and Keith Chinnery (right) pose by one of the many classic fire trucks to be featured in the seventh and final Firefest later this month. September 6, 2018. (Photo by Greg Higgins)

Due to the amount of hours taking its toll on volunteers and a lack of funding, particularly from the municipality, this will be the seventh and final year of Firefest.

It was a bitter sweet day for the organizers of Firefest as they announced all the details for this year’s event along with the surprising announcement this will be the final year. According to organizers Brent DeNure and Keith Chinnery, there were many reasons for the decision to discontinue the event. However, one of the biggest had to do with the lack of municipal funding.

“The obstacles and hurdles administration places on us are just not easy,” DeNure said. “It gets to the point where enough is enough and, why bother? The number of times they move the goalposts on you or provide incomplete information is just not fair to people volunteering their time.”

Chinnery added the lack of sponsor dollars isn’t the only thing to blame for the Firefest ending. He said even if they received all the money needed to run the event upfront, there would still be a lot of work to do. DeNure said he puts in upwards of 350 hours a year into Firefest and it is wearing him and the other volunteers down. On a more positive note, the organizers do plan to go out with a bang. DeNure said the event will break a world record. Originally organizers wanted the most rigs in a single parade, but it was too much to organize and could be affected by weather.

“Keith and I banged our heads together and looked that the longest route and we’re like ‘ oh, boom we can do that in the rain,'” DeNure said. “It just seemed like a lower risk, higher reward and easier to facilitate.”

The parade will take place in conjunction with the International Plowing Match (IPM) on September 22. It will start at St. Clair College in Chatham and will end up at the IPM site in Pain Court by 11 a.m. The route will be 25 kilometres long, breaking the previous 12 kilometre record held by the Hanover Schultzenfest Parade in Germany. DeNure added the previous record isn’t recognized by Guinness, but said they will be on hand to make this record official.

DeNure added they had to cut down on some of the more adult attractions at the event this year due to a lack of funding. He said there will be no special guest speaker this year and their won’t be the same level of live entertainment. One part that hasn’t been sacrificed is entertainment for the kids and the multitude of classic cars. According to the organizers over 80 emergency services vehicles ranging from 1800’s to 1980’s are expected to attend. Chinnery said it makes Firefest the largest gathering of classic emergency service vehicles in Canada and top three in North America.

The main Firefest event will run on Saturday, September 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on King Street in Chatham between Second Street and Fifth Street.