As soon as the fire truck sirens rang out, children playing in grass grabbed their plastic bags and raced toward the edge of the sidewalk.
The streets were clear, but the sidewalks were filled.
Lorin Demos, 5, jumped up and down and yelled out to the tops of her lungs.
“Mommy they’re coming!” she said.
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The sirens signified the start of Garner’s annual Firemen’s Day Parade and hundreds of children and adults grabbed a seat along Main Street and Garner Road to see the fire trucks, the band and other acts pass by.
For the children, it was all about the candy.
Yasmine Williams, 9, said her goal was to grab as much candy as she could. “The candy is my favorite,” she said of what she liked best about the parade.
She had hopes of filling up her plastic bag, but as the parade neared its end, she said she wasn’t close to where she wanted to be. She waited for more.
For many of the adults, like Dorothy B. Smith, Firemen’s Day is a time for family.
“It’s just a joyous day,” Smith, 72, said. “Families can come out and have a good time. And it’s great weather.”
Smith, a cook at Dillard Drive Middle School, lives on the corner of Montague and Main Street, and has been there for the past 12 years. She spoke to nearly everybody she saw as they passed by.
Smith said her family, including, nieces, nephews, children and grandchildren come by every year to watch the parade pass her house.
“This is the best parade of the year,” Smith said. “You get to see all the beauty queens. They look so beautiful.”
Down the street at the fire station, two Garner firefighters demonstrated to children how to put out real fires. Then they let the children help them put out small embers with water hoses.
The Garner Fire Department has hosted Firemen’s Day for more than 60 years. Vendors set up shop on Main Street and sell and sample their items. The fire department sells barbecue plates and other food.
The fire department was able to raise more than $20,000 at last year’s event. Most of the money goes to the Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospital. The department also donates some money to families who are struggling financially during Christmas.
“We’ve had children from Garner that have been in the burn center,” Fire Captain Bud Davenport said. “So we’ve seen firsthand the miracles that place works. I mean they take people at their worst, and it truly is amazing to see them come out of there.”
Davenport said the fire department is moved by the children who are victims of fires.
Davenport recalls a time they were visiting a child in the burn center who had not been speaking. They brought Santa Claus to the room to give the child some toys. After Santa left, the boy asked the firefighters could Santa Claus come back to the room so he could give him a hug.
“That’s the only time I’ve ever seen Santa Claus cry,” Davenport said. “They played with the Spiderman toy, and it was like he had really opened up because of what we had done.”