ROXBURY, NJ - Let it be known: Roxbury firefighters sure know how to throw a birthday party.
Hosting hundreds of firefighters and dozens of fire trucks, from as far away as Millburn, Roxbury Fire Chemical Co. 1 of Succasunna celebrated 100 years of service on Saturday with a huge parade, kind words from politicians and a party that included free food, live music and cheap beer.
Thunderstorms - the biggest fear of parade organizer Roxbury Firefighter Tommy Bilancia - never materialized. Instead, a nice breeze and balmy, dry weather blessed the parading fire and emergency medical personnel who strutted their stuff down Main Street in Succasunna. Along the way, it was standing-room only in some spots as thousands showed up for the event.
"I love the bagpipes," said Roxbury Township Historical Society President Margaret Cushing, who noted that the municipality should hold a fireman's parade more regularly. "They are the unsung heroes and heroines of the township. They are 100 percent volunteer ... You've got women in there as well as men. "I hope don't wait another hundred years to have another."
U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th. Dist.) showed up, as did Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and other dignitaries. Lance praised the dedication of the volunteers. "I'm honored to be here," he said. "The whole community is honoring the fire department today. We rely heavily on volunteers in New Jersey, and there is no greater example of that than the volunteers who serve Roxbury."
Briana Hoffman, whose husband, Kyle, is chief of Roxbury Fire Chemical Co. 1., said she was proud of the hard work that made the event possible. It was a weekend of honoring both retired and active volunteers, she said.
"We're so happy that they're here and being honored," said Hoffman, adding that the parade has taken at least a year to organize. "I don't think we see it very often, this is the first one I've been to. To see it all come together, they've done a wonderful job."
Ellen Alpaugh, said there used to be a regular fireman's parade, but that was many years ago. "Because it's the 100th anniversary they went as all out as they could," she said. "This is like the parades we used to go to."
Alpaugh's husband, Charlie, 80, was a grand marshal of the parade. He became a volunteer firefighter when he was 21.
A star of the parade was the fire company's first fire truck, a 1917 Ford Model T that received a substantial cosmetic restoration before the parade. The glistening new red paint and gold leaf lettering is way more beautiful than the truck's original finish, said Alpaugh - who's grandmother's barn once housed the vehicle.
"Henry Ford painted it with a brush," said Alpaugh. "It's not a Rolls Royce fire truck." He might be a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to the old truck's fancy new paint, but Alpaugh's pride in, and love for, the little Model T was easy to see. Ask him anything about it, and he'll gladly speak volumes.
Among the highlights of the fire department's big day was the presentation of a joint legislative resolution, from the state Senate and Assembly, saluting the fire company. "The members of Roxbury Company No. 1 Fire and EMS have worked diligently and with steadfast commitment for the past century to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents of Roxbury and the community at large," says the document.
A number of those in attendance thanked the Rev. Mark Mancini of nearby St. Therese Roman Catholic Church, suggesting the nice weather had something to do with his influence. For his part, the priest - during a pre-parade prayer - thanked God for the firefighters, "authentic heroes who are right around the corner."