Area firefighters named Grand Marshals
It's hard to miss them. They are in every Maple Leaf Festival parade with their lights flashing and their sirens blaring.
But this year, the lights and sirens will announce more than the fact that the firefighters are coming. They will also serve as the signal that the parade's Grand Marshals are riding through.
The Maple Leaf Committee chose the Baldwin City, Palmyra and Willow Springs firefighters to be this year's Grand Marshals.
Maple Leaf publicity coordinator Star Novak said the committee wanted to honor the volunteer firefighters, which number more than 40, because of their dedication to the community and Maple Leaf Festival.
"The firefighters are wonderful volunteers in the community and they are an integral part of the Maple Leaf Festival," Novak said. "We are honored to have them serve as Grand Marshals."
Maple Leaf Committee chairman Sharole Prahl said the firefighters do a variety of things for the community and the Maple Leaf Festival that are often overlooked.
"It's all those little things, the little odds and ends, the countless little things you don't think about that always get done," Prahl said. "They all work together to get things done.
"And it's who they are and what they do," she said. "To me, volunteer means not getting paid. They are willing to put their lives on the line and not be paid to do it."
Randy DeMersseman, Palmyra Fire Chief, said the honor meant a lot to the firefighters because of recent events in America.
"It's an honor especially because of all of the turmoil over all of the lost brothers and sisters of ours in the Sept. 11 tragedy," DeMersseman said.
"They are the fallen ones. They are the true Grand Marshals. It's firemen being honored for what they do," he said. "We're just the fill-ins at the Maple Leaf Festival."
Baldwin Fire Chief Allen Craig said the area firefighters were representatives for all United States firefighters.
"With everything going on in New York, it's an honor to be a representative of all of the firefighters at the Maple Leaf Festival," Craig said.
"And the three stations will represent all of Douglas County," he said. "It's an honor to represent them all, not just the three of us."
Lyle Bowling, Willow Springs Fire Chief, said the firefighters he had talked to were pleased with the honor.
"In lieu of everything that's happened since Sept. 11, it's an honor," Bowling said. "And it's an honor to be recognized for our dedication as volunteers."
The area firefighters have had to work for the honor of Grand Marshal.
Craig said the volunteer firefighters must be ready to go at a moments' notice.
"We never know when we're going to get a call. It's not like going to work from nine to five, five days a week," he said. "We could be at church, in a restaurant or in Lawrence. But when we get a call, we go."
They will even be on call during the Maple Leaf Parade.
"We just help out where we're needed," Bowling said. "We're there to help serve people and do whatever's necessary."