Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department prepares for 125th anniversary parade: ‘Going to be spectacular’

RIDGEFIELD — As a result of the Great Main Street Fire in 1895 that destroyed most of the town’s business area, Ridgefield residents saw the need for a fire department.

They got together and established a fire district in the central village area two years later.

To celebrate its milestone 125th anniversary, the Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department this week will hold multiple events, including a carnival, a parade and a fireworks show.

The carnival, which is free to attend, runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, on East Ridge Middle School’s field. Rides include a ferris wheel, avalanche and super slide; game trailers; and food trucks selling ice cream, fried dough, cotton candy and french fries.

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Anniversary event schedule

From 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday - Carnival at East Ridge Middle School field, 10 E. Ridge Road. There is no entry fee, however the cost of a bracelet for unlimited rides is $30 each.

At 7 p.m. Friday - The Fireman's Parade steps off at 7 p.m. But first, parking along Main Street will be suspended starting at 4 p.m. It will be closed starting at 6 p.m., and detours will be in effect.

Dusk on Saturday - Fireworks show begins that will be visible everywhere near the carnival grounds.

The carnival will take place rain or shine, but heavy rain or extreme weather conditions will cancel the fireworks and/or parade.

Fairgoers can also buy 125th anniversary merchandise, including T-shirts and mugs.

Additionally, a Fireman’s Parade will step off at 7 p.m. Friday on Main Street, going toward Town Hall, then taking a left on Market Street and a right on East Ridge Road until ending up at East Ridge Middle School — at the carnival.

Leading the parade will be Grand Marshal Vincent Pancotti, a past deputy fire chief and honorary member who served over 40 years with the fire department. Pancotti will ride in the fire department’s antique 1931 Seagrave ladder truck.

“The truck’s nickname is the ‘old hook,’ and (it) has been owned by the department ever since it was purchased,” said town resident Tim Pambianchi, volunteer deputy fire chief. “Chief Pancotti has cared for this truck over the years and led the restoration project of this truck in the early 1970s.”

Marching bands from about 25 local fire departments in Fairfield County and Westchester County, N.Y., will participate in the parade.

“This year’s parade is going to be spectacular,” Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “For the kids in town, including this one right here (referring to himself), it’s fire trucks and sirens and a lot of people are just, ‘Wow, look at that list’ — It promises to be a great event.”

On Saturday, there will be a fireworks show at dusk. Fireworks will be visible from anywhere near the carnival grounds.

Mix of paid and volunteer staff

Ridgefield’s fire department is made up of 55 active volunteers and 34 paid staff members. The 125th anniversary event is run by its volunteer staff.

“Our fire department is very unique in that we have both on-duty career staffing with volunteer staffing available,” said Pambianchi. “The career staff and the volunteer staff work very well together, hand in hand on calls. It’s been like that for a long time. We’re most proud that we provide a great service to the residents of Ridgefield.”

In 2021, the department responded to 2,141 emergency medical service calls and 1,211 fire calls.

The fire department has been planning the 125th anniversary celebration for a year. It had a 25-member committee in charge of setting up the carnival, parade and firework show.

While the fire department holds smaller celebrations annually, this is the first major celebration since its 100-year anniversary in 1997.

“We’re happy that the carnival was back this year, after two years of not having it due to COVID,” said Pambianchi. “Not only is it a great event for the townspeople, but it’s also one of our biggest fundraisers in the department as well.”

Proceeds will go toward the fire department’s operating expenses, including to purchase specialized firefighting equipment and tools.

The fire department is appreciative “of the support that Ridgefield has given us over the course of 125 years of being able to provide a great service to our community that we all live in,” Pambianchi said.