by Susan Mikula Campbell and Autumn Evans
Two events celebrating the service of volunteer firefighters are scheduled to take place next week in Lewiston and Wheatfield.
Lewiston No. 1 Volunteer Fire Co. will celebrate its 100th anniversary and the opening of its renovated firehall from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 26, at 145 N. Sixth St.
"It will be the official dedication and recognition of 100 years of service," said Les Myers, president of the fire company. The dedication ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. During the event, there also will be an open house for the renovated firehall.
"The fire company has always been part of the community, and we want them to see what we've done," Myers said, adding that part of the renovation included upgrading the public social hall.
Also throughout the week, some 1,000 volunteer firefighters, fire police and emergency medical services personnel are expected to arrive in Wheatfield for the 115th annual Western New York Volunteer Fireman's Association Convention.
Coming from the 300-plus fire companies in the 11 counties served by the association, they will be gathering on the grounds of Wheatfield Town Hall from Wednesday, July 23, to Saturday, July 26, for convention activities such as meetings, training seminars, awards presentations, vendor displays/demonstrations and a memorial service. Some attendees will even be camping out in the "tent city" to be built on the grounds.
The public is invited to come watch some of the fun activities planned, including a parade, competitive games and music.
The parade, which begins at 7 p.m. at Ward and Homeyer roads, will go north down Ward to Church Road, ending at the beer tent on the grounds behind Town Hall.
Other events open to the public are:
•Wednesday, July 23, performance by the Two or Less Band at 8 p.m. in the beer tent.
•Thursday, July 24, performance by John Valby ("Dr. Dirty") at 6 p.m. This event will be at the St. Johnsburg firehall. Admission is $15. At 8 p.m., the public can join convention attendees to hear the band Black Widow at the beer tent.
•Friday, July 25, will feature a full slate of fun events shared with the public, beginning with firefighter games at noon at the St. John Lutheran Church athletic field, a parade at 7 p.m., a fire truck pull by the beer tent at 8:30 p.m., and the band 90 West at 9 p.m. in the beer tent.
The games will include water ball, which Wendi Walker, WNYVFA president, described as almost like basketball. Two teams with hoses fight to send a ball on a line to one end of the field or the other to score. Other games test speed and agility, skills needed for quick response in a real fire.
"It's a good time for firefighters just to be able to kick back, relax and enjoy themselves," Walker said of the convention, noting it also will bring extra revenue to local hotels, restaurants, stores and attractions.
Mike Kislack and Tim Pytlik from St. Johnsburg are general chairmen of the convention.
Kislack said not only is the convention a great chance for Western New York firefighters to get together to share information and fun, but the public events may serve as a recruitment tool for local volunteer fire companies that are always looking for new members.
"We really would love the public to come out to see what it's all about," Kislack said.