Painting the town fire-engine red
Alexandria is going to be ablaze with firefighter action next weekend. The Alexandria Fire Department will host the 137th annual Minnesota State Fire Department Association (MSFDA) Conference June 14 through 16.
Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Karrow said he anticipates 600 to 700 visitors will be in town shopping, staying at hotels and enjoying local restaurants.
"They love the Alex area," Karrow said. "Alexandria usually has one of the biggest, most successful conferences."
The conference has a plethora of learning and networking activities planned for firefighters but the public isn't excluded from the event. Friday night, the visiting firefighters and their guests are given the night off to explore Alexandria. While the fire department does get a portion of the registration fees paid by attendees, Karrow said it's not about the money.
"It's more about bringing MSFDA and firefighters to our town to see new things, learn new things and enjoy the Alex area."
Community members are invited to attend the Grand Parade on Saturday, June 16 from 2:45 to 4:15 p.m. The parade will start at Mike's Car Wash, proceed down Broadway and finish at the fire station.
Karrow said more than 50 units are scheduled for the parade line-up including the AFD Honor Guard and Explorers, the Minnesota Pipe and Police Band, Kracker Jacks, Fergus Falls Band, Alexandria Aces basketball team and a lot of fire trucks.
Ninety-five fire departments in the state are registered for the conference with more than 300 firefighters signed up to attend. The surge in visitors could potentially bring in more than $200,000 to the area in one weekend, an amount that translates into $1.75 million, according to a Chamber of Commerce economic impact formula.
Alexandria has hosted the MSFDA conference in years past and is the first to introduce a memorial service. In 2003, the Lakeside Ballroom in Glenwood burned to the ground on June 7 during the conference, Karrow said.
Featured events this year include a MSFDA Down and Dirty Firefighter Challenge at Fat Daddy's, a golf tournament at Arrowwood, a side-by-side live burn, bean-bag tournament and exhibits at Runestone Community Center, workshops at Alexandria Technical and Community College and guests of conference attendees will be treated to a tour of the Carlos Creek Winery.
Entries are still being accepted for the Grand Parade. For information, call (320) 763-6489 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The theme of this year's conference is "Impacting Lives, Empowering Future Leaders."
Division Chief Eddie Buchanan will deliver a keynote speech addressing the importance of passing knowledge on to future generations and how the lessons of his mentors have become key to his own individual and organizational leadership.
"We brought in some very high-powered speakers," Karrow said. "Buchanan is awesome."
Buchanan has been a firefighter since 1982. He currently serves as division chief with Hanover Fire and EMS in Richmond, Virginia.
Buchanan is on the executive advisory board for Fire Engineering Magazine and the Fire Department Instructor's Conference and is vice-chairman of the national advisory committee for the Congressional Fire Services Institute and on the national fire protection association technical committee for Fire Services Training. He is the immediate past president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. Buchanan also authored the Volunteer Training Officer's Handbook.
Watch for the MSFDA firefighter welcome spread in the June 13 issue of the Echo Press.
Read related story Local firefighters lend a hand in Sartell mill blaze.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.