Alexandria’s oldest fire company celebrated its 245th birthday with a block party that featured family events and demonstrations at the annual Friendship Firehouse Festival Aug. 3 in Old Town.
Presented by the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association, festival features included antique fire apparatus, craft booths, community organization displays and tours of the historic Friendship Firehouse Museum.
“We’re excited to be here at the festival,” said Tracy Dace, founder of the youth nonprofit DREAAM House. Dace was visiting Alexandria with a group of 52 from Champaign, Ill., and toured the museum and climbed aboard the fire apparatus. “Everyone is enjoying this.”
The Friendship Fire Company was established in 1774 as the first fire company in Alexandria. On display during the festival was the 1858 Prettyman hose reel carriage, voted the favorite Virginia Association of Museums Top 10 Endangered Artifacts.
“This year’s festival was a very successful event,” said lead coordinator Bill Kehoe. “The weather was hot but visitors and exhibitors alike all had a good time.”
According to Kehoe, more than 4,000 visitors attended the event, with over a thousand taking the time to tour the Friendship Firehouse Museum.
In addition to exploring firefighting artifacts and touring city fire trucks, children received free fire helmets and birthday cake.
“The fire equipment was, of course, the main attraction and there were long lines for kids and adults to get up into the rigs and ‘drive’ them,” Kehoe said. “One unusual feature this year was the long line of folks to get up into the rear tiller seat on the back of the fire truck.”
New this year were hourly raffle drawings, organized by Friendship Veterans Fire Association board members Marion Moon, Jeanne Jacob and Tim Winkle. Combined with a “fill the boot” campaign and donation box, several hundred dollars were raised for the 1858 Prettyman Hose Carriage Conservation Fund.
Mayor Justin Wilson, joined by Acting Fire Chief Corey Smedley and Council women Del Pepper and Amy Jackson, cut the birthday cake, which according to Kehoe “was devoured in record time.”
“One extra benefit came from the fact that several cars did not heed the no parking signs and were towed away,” said Kehoe of the South Alfred Street road closure. “During this process, the Police Department was there to assist. The cops and cars were still on site as the festival started up and bingo, a new exhibit formed. Kids and adults were anxious to get in the squad cars and look around at all of the buttons, etc. It was a huge success. Obviously, we will formally invite them and the Sheriff next year.”
After decades of coordinating the festival, Kehoe announced that he will be stepping down from that role.
“Age and pace are creeping up on me and I have decided this will be my last festival as the lead coordinator,” Kehoe said in an email to board members, who will continue to sponsor the festival.
The Friendship Firehouse Museum is located at 107 S. Alfred St.