Each year, the Camden FireFest brings a sense of community and pride to our city that is unique to others.
FireFest serves as Camden Fire Department’s kickoff to Fire Prevention Week in October. Fire Prevention week came from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that killed up to 300 people and left 100,000 people homeless. The fire consumed 3.3 square miles and 17,500 buildings.
Started in 1994 by Niles Blackburn, in conjunction with Camden Fire Department, FireFest serves two purposes: to promote awareness about fire and life safety practices in a fun setting with real firefighters, and to provide the emergency responders from around our county an opportunity to get to know each other, before we meet on an emergency scene.
Blackburn’s vision for FireFest was to have all surrounding firefighters throughout the state gather for one day competing in several different firefighter games such as water polo, bucket brigade and tug-of-war. In 2006 members of the Camden Fire Department led by Lieutenant Ty Bennett decided that they wanted to make a couple changes to FireFest, adding a firetruck parade, firefighter vendors and kid’s games. Over the years, we have added more events that last throughout the day and this historic event now has an annual attendance of approximately 3,000 people.
The day starts off with a parade of new and antique fire trucks through historic downtown Camden. Opening ceremonies take place with honor guard from Lexington Fire Department and a bagpiper. There will be a side by side burn demonstration, which is meant to show parents how quickly a fire can spread in the home and why working smoke detectors and sprinkler systems are so important. Our Kids Zone, which allows our “future firefighters” to test their skills, is meant for everyone in our community to learn from and enjoy. Area dance groups and gymnastics teams will perform throughout the day, and several Explorer groups from all around the state will take part in the Explorer Competition, which consists of individual gear donning and hydrant hook up. This gives our upcoming junior firefighters a chance to show off their skills and to be a part of our exciting festival.
This year, I am also excited to welcome our special guest, Richland County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Danny Brown and other members of their CAT team. Many will recognize Lt. Brown and his team as the Richland County Sheriff’s deputies made famous by the A&E television series “Live PD.”
FireFest will kick off at 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 28th with the parade of new and antique fire trucks and emergency vehicles. The parade begins at Fire Station 1, next to Camden City Hall. Come see the parade as it travels down Rutledge and Broad streets, ending at the City Arena.
Activities at the Arena will begin at approximately 9:30 a.m. and will include a chance to meet Lt. Brown. Families can also enjoy the adult firefighter and junior Explorer competitions, the Kids Zone, performances from some of our local dance schools, a car cruise-in, and more than 50 vendors with crafts, services and food participating until 1 p.m.
We will collaborate with numerous community partners and vendors to help promote the importance of fire and life safety throughout the Kershaw County area in what will be a fun and educational day. If you would like to be a vendor please contact Howard McCoy at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no charge for community partners to participate. Retail vendors will pay a $50 fee. Space is limited to the first 50 vendors to submit a reservation form. All others will be placed on a waiting list and notified as space becomes available.
Sponsorships are as always welcome, helping to ensure that we can maintain this FREE community tradition for years to come. For more information on being a sponsor, visit www.facebook.com/camdenfirefest.
Please join us on Saturday September 28th for the 24th Annual FireFest and Parade. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/camdenfirefest.