More Than a Rally

Trucks and Heroes, Fire and Water

Another day in Herculaneum, Missouri, but this one started out with a bang – that is, multiple sirens and jarring air horns excitedly shattered the clear morning air; strobe lights of red, white and blue and shiny waxed and polished vehicles delighted the eyes; and smiles and waving people from the streets and inside the vehicles brightened feelings of festivity. Today we are all one! Friendliness fills the atmosphere. This was the day of the 18th annual Jefferson County Fire Engine Rally.

18th Annual Fire Engine Rally

Fire services and others (listed below) made for a dynamic and colorful parade that seemed to stretch a mile. On foot, we followed the last truck into the Herculaneum Fair Grounds and gathered before the stage. Chief Bill Haggard, Herculaneum F.D. is also President of the Jefferson County Firefighter Association. He is the kind of man who exemplifies the character of all fire fighters. Theirs is not just a job or simply a career. It is a calling born of an innate devotion to others. And so, the Rally could not start as a simple parade and then on to the fun activities. Chief Haggard began the Rally with a tribute to our nation’s flag presented by the Honor Guard, Shannon Coaley sang with her beautiful voice The Star Spangled Banner and Father Paul Nieman, Jeffco Fire Chaplain, offered a prayer. Chief Haggard called our attention to two pieces of rusted steel on the stage; remnants of the Twin Towers displayed today courtesy of the Desoto FD.

Bagpiper and Honor Guard

Ian Ebrecht played Amazing Grace on his bagpipe and, I swear this really happened – this was a huge Life Nugget (the kind I don’t seek but find each day) – an American eagle appeared high in the sky, floating on air currents above the gigantic American Flag hoisted above the stage platform between two fire truck extended ladders. It stayed there and I filmed it on my tiny camera. Attendees later were heard discussing this. It was, indeed, an eagle!

The Flag, The Eagle and Chief Haggard

The Memorial Bell was rung – one, two, three – one, two, three, four – one, two, three. In remembrance of the 343 firefighters lost on 9/11. Firefighter Baker read a poem and then a moment of silence was shared beneath a blue sky and the soaring eagle.

Chief Haggard, and others like him, teach us the true meaning of days like these which are provided by the sense of community and hard work of these devoted men and women – it is the ethic of responsibility toward one’s fellow man, the sense of duty to serve – and we, as attendees and as recipients of their good towards us, owe that much in return. Throughout the day, this was an exceptionally well-mannered and courteous crowd.

And so, the Rally served the people today. Many booths offered services to the community. Home Depot donated over four hundred wood project kits for children to build. One couldn’t stand long next to that area, the hammering of a dozen little carpenters at a time rattled the brain. Michael Redman with thirty years experience offered his Traveling Weatherman Show – an educational disaster weather program that saves lives. Pat Rimkus of Hawk’s Hollow Equestrian Center, Desoto, advised people of the equestrian assisted therapy program for the disabled. County-wide 911 dispatch was there, as was the Red Cross, Herculaneum PD, Missouri Department of Conservation, Survival Flight Festus, Missouri Region ‘C’ Technical Rescue Team Search Dogs, and others. Information was available about “meth” houses and how to identify them. T-shirts and antique fire equipment could be purchased. St. Louis Fire Sprinkler Alliance had an impressive display of the effectiveness of fire sprinklers in the home or office. The display room not equipped with sprinklers went up in flames in just seconds. Our trusty, fully outfitted firefighters moved in, extinguished the flames and tore down the inner walls and ceiling to smother any smoldering cinders.


Fire Is Out!

Arch Air Rescue and Air Evac LifeTeam helicopters were there. Blaze, the dalmation dog taught children to stop, drop and roll in the case their clothes caught fire. Food booths offered Ted Drewes ice cream, sno-cones, hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos, and sodas.

There were activities for children – a bounce house provided by Bounce St. Louis and games were run by Journey Community Church. Youngsters tested their fire extinguisher target skills and abilities on a performance course – a child entered the “house” by climbing through a simulated window. Then he had to drop to the ground and crawl beneath a tarpaulin, rise out of that and pick up the fire nozzle, strike the large wooden flame with it, and turn and drag the sled with a baby doll on it into safety. Some of the children participated in a Firefighter Dress-Up Show.

Water Target

I Wanna Be a Fire Man!

There were activities for competing firemen – the firefighter challenge, the bucket brigade and the water challenge – each was a timed event and required concentration, hand-eye coordination, physical and mental exertions. Spectators enjoyed watching the men display their skills. Camaraderie between the firefighters was impressive. More seasoned veterans complimented and encouraged the “losing” team members.

Firefighter Challenge

1941 GMC O'Fallon Volunteer Fire Department 1941-1980

This was a well-planned, informational and busy event and, needless to say, a very fun time. The scale made it impossible to participate in all the activities or to visit all the booths. That means returning for the 19th Annual Fire Engine Rally next year, an enjoyable prospect.

Near the end of the day, beautifully engraved plaques were awarded to the winners of the firefighter contests and for other honors. This was their day to shine and to share their activities with the public. They seem to shine most when they are giving of themselves. Let us be proud of these humble men and women in all of our communities who do so much for us all year round.

Water Fight - First Place

Firefighter Competition - Overall Winner

FOOTNOTE:  Trucks from districts far and near included Festus, Antonia, Dunklin, Boles, High Ridge, Mapaville, Goldman, Desoto, Hematite, Fredericktown, Childs, Buffalo, Kinsey, Hawk Point, Jefferson R-7, Union, Mehlville, O’Fallon, Big River, Crystal City, Hillsboro, Saline Valley, Lincoln, Rock Hill, Rock Community, Cedar Hill, Valle, Joachim-Plattin and, of course, Herculaneum. Others represented were Pippin Wrecker Service, Jeffco Hazmat, TIMCO Towing, American Red Cross, Wildland, Herculaneum Police, CERT and Bounce St. Louis. A D.A.R.E. Corvette was there – a vehicle now owned by the Police Department – with a personalized license plate – “SEIZED”.

Desoto Truck and D.A.R.E. Corvette




If any agency or booth represented at the rally was omitted in this article, my apologies – it was unintentional.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Margo Dill
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 19:55:42

    That American eagle part of your story gives me chills. I believe there are no coincidences. I love how you have paid tribute to a special day.


    • annettecrey
      Oct 04, 2011 @ 20:00:12

      If only I had a better camera. The eagle came closer above the flag – still high – but closer to the stage – he coasted and floated – and just as magically, was suddenly gone – but not until the solemn moments on the stage were concluded. I agree with you – no coincidence.


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