Breitung hosts firefighters’ tournament this summer

QUINNESEC – For the first time in its 120-year history, the annual Upper Peninsula Volunteer Firefighters Association Tournament is coming to Quinnesec.

Tournament festivities will take place from Thursday, July 24 through Saturday, July 26 in the areas of Lincoln Avenue and Menominee Street.

Breitung Township Fire Chief Jeff Iverson said that he and his department are excited to host.

“We wanted to do it for awhile,” he explained. “Two years ago, we finally decided it was time to dive in.”

Since tournament sites are voted on by association members two years in advance, the department had plenty of time to make all the necessary preparations.

“We had to see if there would be community support and participation,” said Iverson. “It turns out, it’s there for us.”

He also credited the Breitung Township Board of Trustees for allocating seed money to tournament costs.

There are 75 departments in the association, and Iverson estimates that 1,000 firefighters will participate in this year’s tournament. Counting firefighters’ family members and other spectators, there could be several thousand people in attendance, he added.

Each year’s tournament has a theme, and the Breitung Township Fire Department has chosen “Smokey Waters.” Iverson pointed out that the Native American word “quinnesec” roughly translates to the phrase “smokey waters.” The theme must be incorporated into both the shirt tail and the commercial parades.

Events will get under way on the morning of Thursday, July 24 with association meetings and visits from firefighting equipment vendors.

The dress parade, which consists of all departments marching in their uniforms, will step off at 7 p.m. and proceed down Lincoln Avenue. Drum and bugle corps the Ishpeming Blue Notes and Marty’s Goldenaires will also participate.

From 8 p.m. to midnight, there will be an ongoing street dance on Menominee Street with live music from Next Myle and Lock n Load.

The shirt tail parade, in which firefighters will show off their comedic side, will step off at 10 p.m. on Lincoln Avenue. No motorized vehicles are allowed in this parade.

On Friday, July 25, firefighter races will run from 9 a.m. to approximately 3 p.m. on Menominee Street. Events include the ladder race, hose relay, coupling race, interchange race, and the mystery race.

Throughout the day, people will be able to get an “old time photo” taken with Breitung Township’s antique fire truck. Price is $6, with proceeds going to Camp Molinare.

From 7 p.m. to midnight, the Firefighters’ Ball will take place on Menominee Street with live music from Next Myle and Lock n Load.

On Saturday, July 26, the commercial parade, which allows motorized vehicles, will step off at 10 a.m. on Lincoln Avenue.

Festivities conclude at noon with the overall awards ceremony at the Quinnesec fire hall on Menominee Street. Departments will be judged on their performances in the five races and three parades.

As hosts, Breitung Township Fire Department members will not be participating in the races. Iverson said that they will instead be busy with tasks like setting up races and parades, taking care of food and beverage vendors, conducting traffic control, and cleaning up any garbage.

“It’ll be a full couple of days,” he noted. “But, we want to do a good job so people will want to come back.”

The firefighters’ tournament was most recently in the local area five years ago, when the Florence Fire Department hosted. Other local hosts over the past 10 years have included Amasa in 2007, Norway in 2005, and Iron River in 2004.

Crystal Falls is slated to host the 2015 tournament.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is nyounk@ironmountaindailynews.com.