THIBODAUX, La. (WGNO) — Throughout the early centuries, fires would rage in growing wooden-structured urban communities across the United States.
Over the years, fire departments would begin with bucket brigades, pump, and eventually steam engines. But, as costly as fires are, the resources to fight them are as well.
The Thibodaux Firemen’s Fair and Parade began both as revelry and a way to fund the fire department. It’s believed to be the oldest continuous parade in the country.
“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 No. 1 and the Protective Fire Company No. 2, of which I am a member, and was formed in 1867. There has been a member of my family in it since it started.”
In 1858, the Thibodaux Fire Company No. 1 was established. Today, there are 8 companies that comprise the Thibodaux Fire Department with around 400 personnel, making it the largest volunteer fire department in the country. The parade continues to fund the majority of the budget as it’s done for decades.
“You can look at pictures back into the 1800s 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.”
Be it Mardi Gras or St. Patrick’s Day, the firetruck often signals the end of a parade, but few parades are all about the firetruck and an ageless tradition of 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.”
The parade rolls at 11 a.m. on Sunday, ending at the Grand Marshal’s den on the fairgrounds. At the end of the route, the fundraising continues with a silent auction that takes place every year.