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Christmasville parade in downtown Lancaster expected to feature nearly 150 firetrucks

If you look closely Saturday night, you might see the Grinch motoring down Central Avenue in downtown Lancaster.

Who knows how more than 140 fire trucks will be decorated as the community's ninth annual Christmasville fire truck parade comes to town?

While organizers a year ago pushed to try to set a record for the most fire trucks in a parade - a feat that would earn the event a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records - they're letting that ambition go for now after learning they would need more than 300 trucks to beat a record set overseas.

Instead, locals are going for the hometown hit, expecting more than 140 decorated trucks representing 75 fire companies from five counties - Erie, Niagara, Genesee, Cattaraugus and Wyoming to drive down Central Avenue, starting from Lancaster High School and ending at Broadway. Last year, 144 trucks showed up, the biggest turnout ever. The Bergen Fire Department in Genesee County traveled 49 miles to participate.

"We've had the Grinch, Charlie Brown, National Lampoon's Christmas, the Polar Express ... A lot of different themes (for the trucks)," said Tom Trzepacz, co-chairman of the parade and vice president of the Greater Lancaster Museum of Firefighting. "We've grown every year. The first year, we had 19 trucks."

And sometimes, the decorating is so good, you cannot even tell it's a fire truck going by, organizers say.

It's all done in the spirit of friendly competition among the fire companies. The companies keep their decorating plans a secret until the parade starts at 6 p.m. It could be as minimal as two strings of lights or a full-blown theme.

"People  go all out, and often times, you can't tell there is a fire truck underneath," said Trzepacz, assistant chief at Bowmansville Fire Co. "Some companies start decorating and planning for two months."

Trzepacz and Jerry Enser, the event's co-chairman, are the spark plugs behind the parade. Both are Lancaster natives and firefighting runs deep in their blood.

"It definitely has put Lancaster on the map," said Enser, museum president and former chief and president of the Lancaster Fire Department. "As a kid, I loved fire trucks and Christmas lights. What a better way to put the two together and have fun, and make it a free, family-oriented event. We wanted to keep it that way for the community."

The parade, which runs about an hour and a half, has inspired family parties, front lawn festivities and campfires along Central Avenue. Santa Claus ends the parade, riding into town on, of course, Lancaster's new ladder truck. The community Christmas tree is then lit at Broadway and Central near the Lancaster Opera House.

"It started out as something to promote the museum at Christmas time and it's really turned into a large holiday event that brings the community together and showcases apparatus and firefighters," Trzepacz said. "It's really a fun time to get together and have friendly competition and decorating."

What's the grand prize for the best decorated Christmas fire truck?

"Bragging rights," Enser said.

The first place winner earns a trophy to keep, and then there's a separate engraved trophy that roams from year to year to the top winner.  The museum also displays a plaque with names of the winners.


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