Spencer, NC (WBTV) - From the NC Transportation Museum: Organizers of the 4th Annual Fire Truck Festival, scheduled for June 23 at the N.C. Transportation Museum, have a very specific goal in mind. "We would love to see more than 100 fire trucks and emergency response vehicles at this year's festival," said June Hall, who coordinates the festival.
The Fire Truck Festival has grown enormously since its inception in 2015, becoming the largest annual gathering of fire trucks in the state of North Carolina and a signature museum event. Last year, 94 fire trucks and emergency response vehicles were on display representing five different states and 23 North Carolina counties. The event drew more than 5000 visitors, selling out every train ride aboard the museum's passenger train and the caboose train. This year, that growth is expected to continue.
The 2018 Fire Truck Festival has even more to offer than before. According to Hall, "We are partnering with dozens of different fire departments, individuals, and collector groups, along with Norfolk Southern Corporation, Amtrak, the Piedmont Firefighters Pipes and Drums, and others to make the festival happen," said Hall.
Classic and antique fire trucks, modern fire trucks, bounce houses, a smoke house to demonstrate escaping a house fire, crafts for kids, face painting, cornhole, miniature golf, and passenger train rides and caboose train rides will all be offered during the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. event on Saturday, June 23.
The Charlotte Fire Department will return with the 1902 steam powered pumper, affectionately referred to as "Old Sue." The steel Metropolitan pumper uses fire and steam to send water shooting from fire hoses and was a big fan favorite at last year's event.
A new addition is the Piedmont Firefighters Pipes and Drums, composed of first responders who perform traditional Scottish and Irish music. Bagpipes will be heard at 10:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.
The Piedmont Firefighters Pipes and Drums will also perform the National Anthem during a special ceremony at noon that will honor the sacrifices of firefighters and celebrate the amazing work they do.
Other times, Norfolk Southern Corporation's official band, the Lawmen, will provide live music, with country and rock favorites for visitors to enjoy.
Norfolk Southern will also be displaying the #5642 locomotive, which powers the Operation Awareness and Response (OAR) train. The train features rail cars that represent the different types of hazardous materials and safety issues that could be faced by those who arrive at the scene of an incident on the railroad tracks. The OAR train travels the country, providing education for first responders. During the Fire Truck Festival, visitors will be able to walk through the train and receive information from NS officials.
Displaying their own locomotive and rail car, Amtrak will demonstrate a simulated rescue during an on-board emergency, referred to as Passenger Train Emergency Response, at 10:30am and 1:30pm. Amtrak will also be training local first responders from Kannapolis, Salisbury, and Lexington is the days leading up to the festival.
Local fire departments are providing additional activities. The city of Thomasville will have a fire safety obstacle course set up in the museum's Back Shop. The Ellis Fire Department will cool down crowds with water hose demonstrations. Hurst Jaws of Life will provide demonstrations of the jaws of life equipment, showing how vehicles are dismantled to free trapped passengers after a crash.
According to Hall, however, the heart of the event is the connection between firefighters and event attendees. "Putting the public into contact with firefighters, allowing them to talk and take pictures, is a great part of the experience," said Hall. "People are able to talk with real life heroes, those that run into danger to save our lives and our property."
From now until the Fire Truck Festival, a special exhibit is being displayed in the Master Mechanic's Office, featuring vintage and antique firefighting equipment from local fire departments and collectors. One exhibit case features items from Salisbury's early 20th century steamer pumper, a Metropolitan unit like Charlotte's "Old Sue". That pumper was melted down in 1942 to contribute to combat efforts during World War II.
Firefighting equipment from Buck Steam Station, a fire station call box that formerly resided on South Main Street in Salisbury, an actual set of the Jaws of Life, and several Indian fire pumps used by firefighters in the wilderness areas are included in the exhibit. Local resident Paul Brown contributed several items, including the fire chief badge worn by his grandfather, W.A. Brown, the last volunteer to hold that post before the city of Salisbury began using paid staff.
In addition, the museum has created its own firefighting patch and is displaying patches from each department attending the Fire Truck Festival in the Master Mechanic's Office, just behind the museum Gift Station.
During the June 23 Fire Truck Festival, rides on the museum passenger train and caboose train will be offered. Both trains depart at the same time, with rides offered at 10, 11 a.m., noon, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. Advance tickets are available at www.nctrans.org.