YORK, Maine — A tradition almost a century-old will continue this Saturday as the York Beach Fire Department holds its annual Field Day parade and firefighter muster.
A line of fire engines will turn down Long Beach Avenue and ride down to Nubble Road, blaring their sirens and flashing their lights for youngsters lined along the beachside parade route. Firefighters from different departments will then show their skills in a series of games while families enjoy grilled burgers and hot dogs.
“It’s a fun time,” said York firefighter Jack Cooper, who brought his 3-year-old son to last year’s parade.
This year marks the return of bouncy houses, carnival games and an obstacle course, which were excluded in 2021 when firefighters brought back a smaller version of the event following COVID-19. The event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The parade, which starts at 11 am, has a different route this year, now starting at York High School on Robert Stevens Drive, turning right onto Webber Road, then left onto Long Beach Avenue. It then goes onto Nubble Road, continuing onto Broadway, right onto Willow Avenue, left onto Ocean Avenue, left onto Railroad Avenue and ending at the York Beach fire station.
The muster and field events start at 12 pm and take place next to the fire station. They will include a dry hose contest in which six-man teams must assemble a hose and connect it to a hydrant, then run to a finish line. The wet hose event has the same test of assembly, but then requires the firefighters to fire the hose at a target. A mystery event will have firefighters compete in a surprise challenge, which Welch said can involve rearranging mixed-up fire gear or correctly assembling a hose that is incorrectly connected. The firefighters’ work is examined by evaluators, who award first and second place trophies.
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A York Beach tradition for nearly a century
The beach department’s muster goes back at least 90 years. York Beach Fire Assistant Chief Mark Gay said there is a trophy inside the Kittery Fire Department from 1934 that Kittery won at York Beach.
“I used to go every weekend,” said Gay of the musters. A retired fire captain who grew up in York, joined the York Beach Fire Department in 1972 and grew up going to musters put on by departments all over the area. The York Village Fire Department has had its own tradition, too, coming up on their 105th muster and parade this August.
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Welch, whose grandfather was fire chief at York Beach, also grew up going to the department’s field days. He recalled riding on top of the fire apparatuses and seeing 20 to 25 fire trucks come down the road. There were more teams participating back then, with as many as 10 different teams showing up to York Beach.
Welch said musters in general have become less common. He said York’s two departments have kept the tradition up, along with the Maine State Federation of Firefighters who hold one as well.
“It’s been somewhat of a dying tradition,” Welch said. “But York Beach and York Village Departments have worked to keep the event alive.”
York Beach Fire Lt. Josh Gammon also grew up in York coming to the parade and musters. He said Field Day gives firefighters an opportunity to connect with the citizens they protect.
“It’s nice to have a time like this,” Gammon said, “To celebrate with people and not be in somebody’s time of need.”