SOMERVILLE, NJ – Hundreds of volunteer firefighters and their fire trucks lit up the town Saturday night as they paraded down Main Street and the borough’s side streets to help celebrate the borough’s fifth annual Holiday Lights parade.
Dozens of fire departments participated, with close to 60 emergency vehicles festooned in strings of lights with trees, blow-up Santas and other holiday figures in central New Jersey's only nighttime holiday parade. Santa stood and waved from atop a hook-and-ladder truck.
Missing from the parade in the honorary lead vehicle position was the borough’s resident “old-timer,” Engine No.5, a 74-year-old Mack pumper retired from active service 13 years ago.
Retired firefighter Rich O’Neil – who was the driver of the 1942 fire truck during its active service, and who continues to maintain the vehicle – said electrical problems prevented him from firing up the truck for the parade.
That enabled him to watch from the street instead of the open cab of the truck.
“I’ll get to see the parade for a change,” O’Neil said, standing in front of Verve Restaurant & Bistro. “I haven’t seen a parade in years.”
A disappointed Mayor Brian Gallagher – who usually rides alongside O’Neil in the open cab ringing the bell – planned to watch the parade with neighbors after wishing firefighters a good time in the staging area.
Thousands of residents and visitors lined Main Street from McCormick’s Pub at the Somerset Hotel on the east end to Mannion’s Pub on West Main Street, as well as residential side streets to enjoy the rolling light show.
Firemen love a parade, and they turned out in force. Millions of dollars in firefighting apparatus from ladder trucks to pumpers and first aid vehicles lined up on Veterans Memorial Drive East before heading west down Main Street.
People began to line Main Street and residential streets throughout the borough one hour before the start of the 6 p.m. parade wrapped in blankets and drinking hot chocolate to fight off the cold.
All costs associated with the parade – permits, police, refreshments and awards were paid for by the firefighters.
The firemen and their trucks returned to the staging area adjacent to Somerville Fire Department Engine Co. No. 1 firehouse at 170 E. Main St. for refreshments and awards. Trophies were handed out in several categories. Homeowners along the parade route also received prizes for the best outdoor Christmas decorations.