Check out the picture gallery of the 143rd Iowa Firefighters Convention HERE!
Feature story and pictures by J.O. Parker
Grinnell put out a fire call and firefighters and their families numbering 1,600 plus from 200 fire departments from across the state arrived in town, Sept. 9 – 12, for the 143rd annual Iowa Firefighters Convention and Contests.
The Grinnell Volunteer Fire Association built a campground with 1,500 camping spaces at the intersection of 380th Avenue and 20th Street (just west of the Grinnell High School ball fields) to house attendees.
Firefighters started arriving as early Sept. 3 with many attending the Grinnell Fireman’s Dance held at the Grinnell Mutual Event Tent in the convention campgrounds on Sunday, Sept. 5. Deep River’s Tyler Richton and the High Bank Boys provided the tunes. Hairball, Route 66 and Sushi Roll, which included a laser show dedicated to the 20th anniversary of 9-11, provided music throughout the four-day event. Local eateries also provided food to the convention attendees.
Firefighters participated in fire drills, water fights, bowling, golf, a craft show and a parade of fire trucks on Saturday evening and much more.
Grinnell last hosted the event in 2014.
The annual event, which is held at various cities across the state the weekend following Labor Day, offered firefighters and their families and opportunity to have fun while catching up with friends and making new friends along the way.
Mark Boeke, a 37-year veteran of the Hubbard Fire Department and long-time funeral director with Boeke Funeral Home, said for years he told the other men on the department to enjoy the convention and he would hold down the fort back home.
“After I was on the fire department for 33-years, I went to my first fire convention (and had a blast),” he said. “The guys were having all the fun and I was staying home.”
That has since changed and Boeke said he’s been attending the convention that last few years.
“I think the camaraderie at the campground is the most fun,” he said.
Heather Sinnwell said she and her husband, Josh, who volunteers with the Nashua Fire Department, take the water fight competitions seriously. In fact, the two travel around the state during the summer months participating in water fight competitions.
“I took second place at the women’s water fights,” she said. “Josh finished third in the main water fight competition on Saturday.”
She and Josh have been attending the fire conventions since 2007. Sinnwell said meeting new people from fire departments across the state is one of her favorite things to do at the convention.
“A lot of time this is when we get to see our friends from across the state,” Sinnwell said. “Firefighters are a big brotherhood and we are like a big family. We knew each other and are there for each other.”
B.J. Poe, formerly of Montezuma and now with the Jefferson Monroe Fire Department in Solon, said he enjoys hanging out with friends and meeting and talking with new people.
Reann Cappel, a three-year veteran firefighter with the Atlantic Fire Department, comes from a long-line of family members who have served the local fire department. Her father is the chief and her younger brother just joined the department. She also has uncles on the Atlantic Fire Department.
Cappel said she likes that all the departments can get together and have a good time.
“It’s not very often that firefighters have time for camaraderie,” she said. “I like the competitions between the departments.”
Brady McClenathan with the Malcom Fire Department, who was attending his second fire convention, said he enjoys the socialization with the other firefighters.
Adam Kane, an 11-year veteran firefighter with the Urbana and Polk Township Fire Department, who participated in the water fights, said being around all of his brothers and having a great time with everyone is the highlight of attending the convention.
This is Kane’s sixth convention he has attended.
Cindy Pollock of Grinnell, whose husband, Jason (safety officer and president), and son, Todd (captain), both serve on the Grinnell Fire Department, said following the convention, “So sad to see all the hard work of the convention coming down.”
“It took everyone putting it together and everyone taking it down,” Pollock said of Grinnell hosting the convention. “My grandson (who helped take down fence) thinks this is fun.”
She said it was an amazing time and that she loved the new friends she and Jason met at the convention.
“Hopefully we connect again in Iowa Falls (host convention site in 2022),” Pollock added. “To the special drink koozie I was gifted. To all the love and support you showed Mighty Mason and the future Mason’s Light House. Thanks for supporting the Grinnell Fire Convention! See ya next year.”
Fire Department Parade results:
Oldest (judges choice): Lynnville
Best Pumper: Brooklyn
Best motor vehicle pre-1920: Cherokee
Best motor vehicle years 1920-1930: Hubbard
Best motor vehicle years 1931-1940: Garrison
Best motor vehicle years 1941-1950: Radcliffe
Best motor vehicle years 1951-1960: Tama
Best motor vehicle years 2001-2020: Dunkerton
Newest motor vehicle(2021): Milo
Furthest traveled (as the crow flies): LeMars
Most patriotic: Maquoketa