Florence Labor Day Celebration salutes fire department for 125 years of service

 Steve Hett drives in Mon?day?s parade one of the old fire trucks that was used by the Florence Fire Depart?ment a couple of generations ago. The 76th annual Labor Day Celebration in Florence on Saturday, Sunday and Monday also marked the 125th year of its volunteer fire department.

Trayce Warner, one of the planning committee members, said this year?s theme, ?Celebrating 125 Years of Volunteer Service,? was in honor of the fire department.

According to information Warner provided, the department went on its first fire call June 23, 1888. Equipped with a hose cart, volunteers extinguished a fire in a coal chute at the depot.

In 1885, fire destroyed a large part of downtown Florence. The Opera House, which was the pride of the town, was all but destroyed in 1886 by fire, save the stone walls.

It was because of these fires and others before and after that in 1887, water lines were laid and a stone water tower was built on the hill at the edge of the town.

Even with the addition of the fire department, fires continued to plague the city, Warner stated in her research.

In the 1930s, a large fire leveled the depot, hotels and surrounding structures.

After the flood of 1951, the population and businesses in Florence began to decline, but the volunteer fire department continued its tradition of serving the community.

Warner said it was fitting to celebrate the Florence Fire Department on its long record of public service.

Successful weekend

Warner said turnout at some events was down slightly from last year, but in other areas participation was up.

One of the activities that drew more people after its debut in 2012 was the vintage baseball game.

A good showing was also reported at the bake sale and farmers? market on Saturday.

?Face painting tattooing and caricature drawings were awesome,? Warner said. ?They all stayed longer and did it because they were having a fun, too.?

The horses stayed busy Saturday, Warner added, with rides for children ranging from 17 months old to teenagers.

?All three bands (Saturday night) were wonderful,? Warner said, ?and they did a great job, but attendance was down.?

One explanation, she added, was that last year ?Six Appeal? drew a large crowd because of one of its members was from Marion.

Even though the Cottonwood River Band and Tallgrass Express String Band were local, last year?s band drew a larger crowd, she said.

The parade had more entries than the previous year, according to one of the committee members, and it was also the first year two entries were floats.

Winners in this year?s parade included first place in open class to the United Methodist Church.

Second place went to Janzen?s Goat Farm and the theme, ?Spread Good Cheer.?

The best classic car award went to Richard and Kathy Dirks of Hillsboro and their 1917 Willys Overland.

In the button drawing for $141, Aaron Riggs of Florence won.

The winner of the 55-inch flat screen television was Richard Stroup of Florence.

Other results were unavailable at press time.

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