An Androscoggin County Sheriff SUV follows a fireturck and ambulances at the head of a convoy of vehicles parading past the home of Roy Nickerson in Turner on Wednesday night to honor the local veteran, former selectman and state legislator. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

It’s become a familiar sight.

A child stands at the end of a driveway; dreams of a birthday party packed with friends and family a distant memory.

But emerging from a bend down the street is a procession of firetrucks, police cars and other first responders driving past, shining blue and red lights, sounding sirens and air horns and waving as the child turns another year older.

In addition to neighbors and family members driving past the home of a birthday boy or girl, sporting colorful signs, first responders have joined in the act.

Go to the Facebook pages of many of these local and county fire, sheriff and police departments and you’re likely to find photos and videos posted of parades for kids on their birthdays.

In Auburn, a police officer rolled up in her cruiser to the home of a girl who was turning 11 on Easter.
Like most children these days, she was in quarantine at home with her family, her school having closed because of the coronavirus.

“We made the best of it, though,” her step-parent wrote to the department.

“We placed a sign in the front yard with balloons that read: ‘Honk for Stephanie’s Birthday.’”

The police officer pulled up in front of the girl’s home and waited until Stephanie opened the door.

The officer called over the police cruiser’s loud speaker, wishing the girl a happy birthday, then asked her if she would like her to flash the lights and blare the siren.

“Of course, Stephanie said, ‘Yes,’” the step-parent wrote.

“It was so awesome hearing her giggle and know that someone took the time to not only honk, but go above and beyond to recognize her birthday.”

On Thursday, Lewiston police paraded down a local street with departmental vehicles to wish Alyx a happy 9th birthday.

Friday evening, Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies planned to drive past the home of 4-year-old child “who likes police officers,” Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols said.

“All people have to do is reach out to us,” he said.  “We are doing what we can to provide a little joy to the public during this difficult time.”

Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright said Friday that his department has not received such requests but will consider them if and when they do.

Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson said his department aims to honor requests for birthday drive-bys.

Earlier this week, deputies took part in several birthday parades, he said, including a boy turning 14 in Minot and a girl turning 7 years old in Wales.

But not all honorees are children.

In Turner, first responders turned out in force with lights and sirens for former selectman and legislator Roy Nickerson, who turned 100.

“If we’re available, we’ll go,” Samson said.

Unless there’s an emergency.

On Wednesday, Samson said a deputy had been planning to join a 2 p.m. parade for a child’s birthday.
But just hours before, an explosion rocked the Androscoggin Mill in Jay. Although Jay isn’t in Androscoggin County, the deputy scheduled to participate in the parade was redeployed to conduct roadblocks around the mill, Samson said.

Chief Deputy William Gagne jumped into action, hopped in a marked cruiser and joined the birthday parade.

Samson said the birthday requests reach him in a variety of ways, sometimes it’s a lone parent or teacher and sometimes it’s an organization.

Lewiston Police Lt. David St. Pierre said his department has participated in several birthday parades since the stay-at-home order was issued by Maine’s governor at the beginning of the month.

He posted on that department’s Facebook page Friday that “while we would love to be able to do this for everyone’s child, we simply cannot make any promises to be available for the countless requests we have received in the last couple of days.”

The post says: “You may check with the watch commander on the particular day you are requesting and if we are able to swing an officer by we will!! Thanks for your understanding. Every child’s birthday is important and we hope to get through these times and back to normal soon!”


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