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Touted as one of the best Independence Day parades in the country — not to mention it’s held in the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed — the Wawa Welcome America parade featured over 6,000 participants in Philadelphia.
The parade marched through the country’s most historic square mile through Old City and, of course, right by Independence Hall.
This year, however, Alert Fire Company No. 1 from Downingtown took part in the parade Saturday morning.
It just so happened the same company who organizes the West Chester Christmas parade also does both the Thanksgiving Day and Independence Day parades in Philadelphia.
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Since Alert has taken part in the West Chester parade, the company reached out to the fire company back in the winter about participating this July 4.
“We made connections with that company,” said Jeff Stevens, president of Alert. “This year’s parade theme was to honor the emergency services.”
Alert has an old 1892 steamer, which used to be pulled by horses but is now pulled along by 22 people, but did not use it in Philadelphia and not just because of Downigntown’s Good Neighbor Day happening at the same time.
But they did display its ladder Tower 45.
“I let (the production company) choose which truck that they wanted,” Stevens said. “They chose our ladder tower to participate in the parade. I think they liked that because it’s a yellow truck and it’s different compared to a lot of the fire trucks being all red.”
As part of the Emergency Services theme, antique and modern apparatus represented from five of the counties surrounding Philadelphia, and also Delaware and New Jersey.
“Middletown, Delaware, took part and they have a green fire truck,” Stevens said.
Due to Good Neighbor Day, Alert was limited to the number of firefighters it could send to the parade.
Usually Tower 45 will have several people on board, but for the Wawa Welcome America parade, only two were able to go.
“Usually we’ll have four guys stand up on top of the truck with near the ladder,” Stevens said. “We weren’t able to take the additional guys because everybody was busy here in town.”
Stevens was told by people who watched the parade on television that Alert’s truck was shown on the broadcast with the description of the truck.
“Because the theme was emergency services, what (the production company) wanted to do was have one fire company or fire department represent each county,” Stevens said.
Though Alert was just one of many fire companies participating in the parade, he knows what a huge honor it is to be in front of so many thousands of people.
“I went down to the parade a few years ago and basically the entire parade route is about 15 people deep on the sidewalks,” he said. “Then there are thousands of people there at Independence Hall where the review stand is. It’s very much of an honor to be in a parade like that.”