THIBODAUX, La. (WGNO) —Thibodaux’s Firemen’s Parade has quite the history. It is older than most of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras krewes and is believed to be the oldest continuous parade that still runs in Louisiana.
Historically, fire departments would rise throughout the country with bucket brigades, pumps, and eventually steam engines, as major city fires would rage in major cities. Fires have the potential to be devastating and are costly in both lives and infrastructure. The resources to fight fires are also costly.
The Thibodaux volunteer fire department’s firemen’s fair and parade began as a way to help fund the fire department and provide a sense of pride and revelry for Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Christopher Riviere is an attorney, a historian and a fireman for the department and like many, is part of a long lineage of Thibodaux firemen.
“My family’s involvement, is not different than the history of a lot of families in Thibodaux. My great great grandfather was a captain of the Thibodaux Fire Department number one and the Protective fire Company number two, which I am a member of. It was formed in 1867 and there has been a member of my family in it since it started,” says Riviere.
In 1858, the Thibodaux fire company number one was established. Today, there are eight companies that comprise the Thibodaux Fire Department. There are around 400 volunteer firemen, making it the largest volunteer fire department in the country.
The parade rolls on the Sunday of the Firemen’s Fair and helps to fund the majority of the fire department budget, as it’s done for decades.
While reminiscing and looking at photographs, Riviere says, “you can look at pictures back into the 1800’s of the firemen marching in their uniforms with their equipment decorated. The firehouse was a civic organization. Town meetings were held there. Two of the fire companies had even built an opera house.”
While most parades involve a firetruck towards the end, few parades are centered around the fire truck and it’s heroes.
“I’m sure there are other fire department parades somewhere, but this one is unique. I think it’s the comradery of the people of Thibodaux and the surrounding area saying thank you to the first responders and the first responders being able to show off the fruits of their labor, their good equipment, their pride and their comradery,” says Christopher Riviere.
By the end of the parade route, the parade continues to the float barn inside the Grand Marshall’s den at the fairgrounds. There, a silent auction helps to drive the fundraising for the department.
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