ELLSWORTH, Maine — The 50th annual Maine State Federation of Firefighters convention proved to be a big draw over the weekend, according to the local fire chief.
Close to 1,000 people attended the Friday night comedy show by Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood and more than 1,000 people went to Saturday’s live performance of Motor Booty Affair, Fire Chief Richard Tupper said Sunday. And many more than that are believed to have turned out Saturday morning to watch as the convention parade rolled along a two-mile route on State, Main and High streets.
On Sunday, the firefighters’ muster drew an estimated 400 spectators, he said, many of whom were members of the public who just wanted to watch the 15 assembled teams compete in the skills competition. Tupper said that, compared to other statewide firefighters conventions he’s been to, he cannot remember any musters that had as many spectators.
“The weekend has been phenomenal,” Tupper said. “I’m going to sleep very well tonight.”
The chief added that on Saturday night, between staying up late for Motor Booty Affair and then getting up to get ready for the muster, he slept about two hours.
“That was a quick nap,” he quipped.
Tupper said that one big advantage to this year’s convention has been the ability to hold all of the events at one location. Aside from the parade, the entirety of the convention has been held at the former Lowe’s Building on Kingsland Crossing, which now is owned by The Jackson Laboratory. The lab has not yet renovated or moved into the 143,000-square-foot building and made it available for the convention’s trade show, entertainment and banquet. Sunday’s muster was held in a parking lot next to the former home improvement supply store.
“It’s usually spread out between two or three locations,” Tupper said of the annual convention.
The spacious convention site enabled the Ellsworth Fire Department, which organized the convention, to open all events to the public, the chief said. Usually, the convention draws firefighters and their families and close friends, but not more than that.
“They got to come in and really see what it’s all about,” Tupper said. “They had a good time enjoying the festivities with us.”
There were few complaints about traffic being rerouted during Saturday’s parade, he said, and what organization hiccups did occur went unnoticed by most people. U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud spoke at the Saturday banquet and Sen. Susan Collins addressed attendees via a prerecorded message, he said.
The convention also included a Saturday afternoon memorial service and had displays of antique hand-pump fire apparatuses and a firefighters’ memorial, including a piece of steel from the World Trade Center that was destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, that was “very well received,” according to the chief.