FARMINGTON — From his motorized wheelchair parked on a lawn lining High Street, Gene Bell proudly watched Saturday morning’s two-hour procession of firefighters and fire apparatus from across Maine and Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

It was the annual parade of the 51st Maine State Federation of Firefighters Convention, which Farmington is hosting this weekend. It drew hundreds of spectators.

A Buckfield resident and volunteer firefighter with the Buckfield Fire Department since 1961, Bell, who suffered a stroke, served many roles including assistant fire chief and chief from 1979-1983. He later served as captain.

In 2012, the federation honored Bell, presenting its Lifetime Achievement Award to him.

Bell on Saturday returned waves to firefighters riding in firetrucks or walking the nearly 2-mile route from and to the Farmington Fairgrounds.

“He’s so proud and happy,” said Lynda Bell, Gene’s wife.


Every time a color guard carrying the American flag marched past the Bells, Gene and his 5-year-old grandson, Collin Bell of Lewiston, stood and took their hats off, heads bowed.

“We’re teaching him to respect the flag by having him take his hat off and stand up every time one of the flags comes through,” Lynda Bell said of their grandson. “We bring our grandson every time because he loves firetrucks.”

The parade began at 9:30 a.m. Excited children in clusters dotting Main Street waited eagerly to see the shiny firetrucks and antique firefighting apparatus.

Seated beside the judges’ table, which was on a flatbed trailer parked in front of Franklin Savings Bank’s Loan Center, were Jean-Guy Bouffard and Daniel Gendron. They are city councilors in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

Bouffard said they were invited by the Farmington Fire Department to participate in the parade, along with the Lac-Megantic Fire Department, which brought several firefighters and engine No. 302.

“We appreciate when Farmington and (fire departments) from Maine came to our fire in Lac-Megantic. Thank you very much,” Bouffard said.


Early in the morning on July 6, 2013, seven departments and about 30 firefighters from Chesterville, Eustis, Farmington, New Vineyard, Phillips, Strong and Rangeley responded to render aid to Lac-Megantic in the devastating fire caused by a runaway train carrying crude oil which exploded earlier that morning.

The fire destroyed about 30 buildings and killed 47 people.

“We really appreciate” the invitation, Gendron said. “We’d just like to say thanks to the people of Maine, particularly the firefighters who came to help us last year in Lac-Megantic. We appreciate it. Thanks.”

Farmington firefighter and parade emcee Clyde Ross said Lac-Megantic firefighters and councilors were honorary members of the parade.

“The relationship we’ve had since the situation last year has been growing and each town has reached out to the other: to help, to communicate and to share,” Ross said. “We appreciate that, and today, we appreciate their being here. We’re just pleased that they could make it.”

Across the street, Beverly Misner of Farmington waited for the parade to arrive as the morning warmed to 78 degrees, according to the sign at Franklin Savings Bank.


She said she came to see her uncle, Bill Rogers, from the Winterport Fire Department and visit with her 2½-year-old grandson.

“My grandson, Keagan Collins, will be here soon and he loves firetrucks,” Misner said. “He’s excited. He’s going to sit on an engine truck.”

Misner said she attended the convention and parade 20 years ago — the last time Farmington hosted it.

“It’s exciting to repeat it 20 years later,” she said. “I also want to support the firemen, which is a good thing, because they give a lot. So it’s nice to come and support them on a beautiful day.”

By about 9:45 a.m., firetruck sirens could be heard approaching.

Ross said they had a very good turnout when Farmington hosted the convention in 1994.


The convention, he said, is basically about the election of officers, including a new president, and a by-law change this year.

And then the parade arrived. Eight Lac-Megantic firefighters proudly walked ahead of their engine, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd.

Ross explained what people were seeing as new and antique firetrucks rolled by, along with a few of the pumpers from the late 1800s to early 1900s being pushed along by several firefighters.

A muster group of Dexter firefighters hurriedly ran its antique pumper up beside the judges’ table, then connected a fire hose to it and sprayed a stream of water on several children and adults who gathered at the centerline to cool off.

As firetrucks rolled by, the odor of spent diesel fuel lingered in the air. The procession turned off Main Street onto Broadway, and then rounded the corner onto High Street and followed that back to the fairgrounds.

A state firefighters’ muster is to begin at 9 a.m. Sunday at the fairgrounds. Teams from across the state will compete, and the public is welcome to attend at no charge.

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