Manchester Fire Prevention Parade won't be held this year
By TED SIEFER New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — Apparently not everyone loves a parade.
The Fire Prevention Parade won't take place this weekend, ending a decades-old tradition that had kicked off a week of activities to raise awareness around fire safety. Manchester Fire Chief James Burkush called off the parade, citing prior low attendance and the cost of the event.
Longtime supporters and organizers lamented the cancellation of the parade, in which dozens of fire trucks from around the state and region — some of them state-of-the-art, some antiques — rumbled down Elm Street with sirens blaring, accompanied by high school marching bands.
"I feel very hurt. It's another tradition going by the wayside," said Real Pinard, 84, who has long headed the fire prevention committee tasked with organizing the parade. "In terms of parades, (attendance) around the country is down."
Burkush said there will still be a fire prevention fair, complete with fire trucks, on Sunday, timed to coincide with the New Hampshire 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb at the Brady Sullivan tower. The event will be held at the plaza, and a section of Elm Street will be closed.
"This is going to be a great event," Burkush said, noting that young people will still get to see the fire trucks and interact with firefighters, and that a pipes and drum corps will be on hand, along with the department's arson dog.
"The purpose of the parade is to draw attention to fire prevention, and this event has two core functions, fire prevention and remembrance of the events of September 11th," he said.
Burkush said he made the decision to cancel the parade due to a "significant drop in attendance," and he noted there were considerable expenses associated with it, including the cost for a police detail, transporting the high school bands and having portable toilets.
He estimated that the cost for the parade itself, not including the detail, was about $3,000.
In the past, those costs were largely covered by sponsors and business donations.
Mayor Ted Gatsas said he supported Burkush. "This was a decision the chief made. I don't try dictate what a department head should do," he said. "He felt obviously there wasn't a big turnout, and there weren't as many fire departments (participating)."
Ward 4 Alderman Jim Roy, a retired Manchester firefighter, also criticized the cancellation of the parade. He said he didn't think it was a good idea to combine the fire prevention fair with the 9/11 stair climb, in which firefighters will ascend and descend the Brady Sullivan tower to commemorate the firefighters killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
"I don't think a lot of people want to go down and see a bunch of sweaty firemen after they run down the stairs," said Roy, who in the past has organized the breakfast that preceded the muster and parade.
Pinard also questioned the appropriateness of combining the 9/11 event with the fire prevention fair.
"Personally, I think Chief Burksush should sit down and reflect a bit," Pinard said. "Maybe it's time for the people of Manchester to make changes."