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Helmut Schmidt, Published July 27 2009

Casselton fired up over parade

Casselton, N.D., parade organizers are hoping their plans to grab the world record for most fire trucks in a parade turns into a 175-alarm call.

The parade, which follows the Aug. 15 Cass County Summerfest Grand Parade, is the brainchild of Greg Kempel, co-owner of Maple River Winery, and other Summerfest organizers.

The fire truck parade record is 159 trucks set in Oberdiessbach, Switzerland, in 2006, Kempel said. Getting 175 to 200 commitments will give parade organizers and participants a cushion for last-minute withdrawals and breakdowns.

Kempel said last week at least 65 trucks are registered, with commitments that bring the total to about 100 trucks from more than 50 towns. He said two to three trucks a day are being registered.

Kempel said fire trucks and parades are a combination that’s a universal draw.

“Every young kid you talk to, they go to a parade, they see the fire trucks and they hear the sirens, and after the parade you ask them what they want to be, and 99 percent of the time, they say ‘a firefighter,’ ” he said.

Trucks have been promised from Bowbells, N.D., down to Aberdeen, S.D., east to Staples and Motley, Minn., and north to Pembina, N.D.

Pembina may be bringing the oldest fire truck so far, a 1904 pumper that may have been the first in North Dakota.

“It’s (the parade) going to be a marvel not only for the youth, but also for the people that have had ties” to firefighting, Kempel said.

“It’s going to be a 100-plus years of pride,” he said. “It’s just fun to see that camaraderie showing up.”

Kempel said participation must be carefully documented to satisfy Guinness Book of World Records rules. Several notary publics will be on hand parade day, he said.

Each entry must have been able to put out a fire, or to have been in service. Ladder trucks won’t count.

Each truck must travel at least two miles in the parade and they can’t be more than two vehicle lengths apart, he said.

To register, call Kempel at (701) 361-0773, or to the Summerfest Web site at www.casscountysummer

fest.com and click on the parade link.

Officials from the Fargo and West Fargo fire departments said last week that they’ll have trucks in the parade.

Fargo will send a standby truck, and is working with the union to find a driver, an official said.

West Fargo Fire Chief Roy Schatschneider said his department will send two of its restored antique trucks to Casselton: a 1917 Luverne pumper and a 1943 Willy’s Jeep once used for firefighting at West Fargo’s Union Stockyards.

“We’re kind of proud of these trucks, and we like

to show them off,” Schatschneider said.

Kempel said his only worry is that most rural fire departments rely on volunteers, many of whom are farmers, who must also make sure they have time to harvest their crops.

“There’s a little nervousness. It’s just close to harvest time. We have to be a little realistic,” he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583