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Thousands of spectators line the streets to catch a glimpse of Lancaster’s holiday parade, which will showcase more than 100 fire trucks and rescue vehicles decked out for the holidays.

The parade, now in its sixth year, kicks off at 6 p.m. and makes its way south from Lancaster High School, down Central Avenue to Broadway, next Saturday night. It ushers in the community’s popular Christmasville celebration.

Fire companies from four counties – including Erie, Niagara, Genesee and Wyoming – pull out all the stops to create an elaborate display of fully decorated fire trucks and rescue vehicles. This year’s event is expected to include at least 105 units. The fire company traveling the farthest distance to participate is expected from Perry Center.

The parade, which raises funds for the Greater Lancaster Museum of Firefighting and which also raises its regional exposure, has mushroomed since its inception, when the first parade sported just 19 fire trucks.

“This is full throttle. We’re going bigger and better than ever,” said Tom Trzepacz, the museum’s vice president and a former chief of the Bowmansville Fire Department. “The trucks get pretty elaborate. Sometimes, you can’t even tell they are fire trucks.”

Consider the creativity of past parades. One year, a fire truck was transformed into three huge balls to resemble a snowman. There was also a large Dalmatian dog. Other trucks have been turned into sleighs. One ambulance had a snowman popping out its rear doors. There have also been an oversized gingerbread house, a Snoopy dog and Charlie Brown-themed truck.

This year, Grand Island firefighters intend to bring their fire rescue boat. There also will be a mix of antique fire trucks, and some fire companies will build flats to be towed behind their fire vehicles.

For the occasion, Central Avenue will be ablaze with lights and festive decorations and a 20- to 30-foot-tall community Christmas tree will mark the corner lot at Central and Broadway – to be lit by village officials and Santa Claus. The guy in the big red suit always is on the very last fire truck in the parade.

“The parade brings the families together. How many little kids don’t like fire trucks?” said Jerry Enser, museum president and a former chief of the Lancaster Fire Department. “It’s a nice event and helps put people in the Christmas spirit.”

Trzepacz said the parade – which he and Enser got the idea for – has turned into a community event, even though it’s a village event. “People come 10 to 20 deep and line along the streets, and have house parties,” Trzepacz said. “People have commented it’s bigger than the Fourth of July in Lancaster.”

Beyond that, “It’s just a nice, healthy competition between the fire companies,” Trzepacz said. “It’s like bragging rights … The first year they come to the parade with just a few strings of lights, and are sort of embarrassed. And then they come back the next year, all decked out.”

Any fire departments wanting to participate can contact the museum at 206-0925.

email: krobinson@buffnews.com