From the crack of dawn until the clock strikes midnight, Trail firefighters have their work cut out for them during Silver City Days.
Traditionally, the Local 941 fire crew has rounded up a bevy of entertainment for the Saturday parade through town and done a bang up job closing the day with a fireworks show at dusk.
Organizing the annual parade and lighting up the night sky is a huge undertaking, and through the years the art of planning May’s celebrations have been handed down from one generation of Trail firefighters to the next.
“It’s a big day for us,” said Lee DePellegrin, president of Trail Firefighters Local 941.
“But we’ve been doing it for a number of years and every guy learned from the guy before him.”
Parade entries are collected at the fire hall months before the event, and the firemen develop a lineup based on the type of participant.
“Basically we try to keep certain groups like the youth together so they aren’t stepping in horse poop and we keep animals like the horses away from loud noises,” he said. “We’ve learned through trial and error but after so many years we know how to give the parade a kind of flow.”
Friday night a delegated fireman heads out to Casino Road to begin staging for Saturday by measuring a section of the roadway, depending on the size of the group or float, before marking each designated spot.
The process is timely and usually spills over into Saturday morning.
“Depending on the number of entries this means an early start,” said DePellegrin. “There is a lot of extra duties on the side with timing the parade and making sure everyone is lined up together,” he continued. “But once the parade starts it’s all in the hands of the people who are in it.”
This year more than 40 entries are lined up to roll through downtown along with the newly crowned Miss Trail riding in style on the city’s new float.
After the parade, the fire crew heads back to the station to pack up a pallet of boxed fireworks shipped in from a Calgary-based company called Sunset Fireworks, along with PVC launching tubes, before heading down to the Gyro Park boat launch.
Then, the labour intensive work begins for a handful of firemen who, in rain or shine, wire each aerial shell (firework) to an electronic “match” before feeding each line into a single fuse.
“It’s not strenuous but we have to wire every shell individually so it becomes very intense,” explained DePellegrin. “It can take up to six hours but we still have retirees who come out to help.”
After last year’s 50th Anniversary Silver City Days blow out that included about 400 individual shells, the fireworks budget was decreased from $10,000 to $8,000 this year,.
The 15-minute show includes 145 aerial shells which provide large and colourful displays, 15 exploding stars called Roman candles, and nine “cakes,” or firework combinations that create long-lasting effects from a single ignition.
Because each firework is set in a heavy PVC pipe and secured in place with sandbags, the only factor that could delay the show is wind, said DePellegrin.
“If it’s raining we can still do it because we cover each tube with cellophane,” he explained. “But the shells themselves are influenced by high winds so we would have to hold off if that’s the case.”
A safety net is set up to ensure no little fires erupt, and one person counts each shot to confirm that all fireworks have discharged.
Once the crowds dissipate following the show, the crew remains riverside to begin a clean up.
“Once the firing is done there is a mess of wires to clean up, sandbags to empty and little plastic caps to pick up from the bottom of the PVC tubes,” said DePellegrin. “We usually don’t get back to the firehall until 11:30 p.m. or so by the time that’s all done,” he noted. “It’s a long day but it’s something we’ve always done and look forward to.”
Each year, the Saturday celebrations are organized by a rotating crew of firemen, depending on how their shift schedules. If a firefighter is not on scene during the Saturday celebrations, they are on regular duty at the fire hall.