ATHENS — Volunteerism and patriotism were in equal abundance at the annual dress parade for the 130th convention of the Greene County Volunteer Firemen’s Association on Saturday.
Hosted by the Athens Volunteer Fire Department, this year’s parade lined up at the entrance to the village of Athens, on State Route 385, marched down Washington Avenue and then turned on Second Street, all along the way cheered on by crowds of people. It concluded at the firehouse on Third Street.
This year’s parade had something different — the United States Marine Corps Marching Band, from Cherry Point, North Carolina, led the marchers and played patriotic tunes.
“They are extremely difficult to get, so it’s quite an honor to have them here,” said Adam Greco, co-chair of the convention committee. “This parade shows the support we have from the community. We thank everyone for participating and for coming out to support us, and we hope everyone has a great time.”
Greco’s brother and convention co-chair, John Greco, said organizing the annual convention is a big undertaking, with many people chipping in to make it a reality.
“It is an honor to host this, and having the Marine Corps band here makes it even more special,” John Greco said. “It takes a lot of work to put this together, and everyone worked very hard to make it a success.”
The last time the Athens Volunteer Fire Department hosted the annual convention was in 2011, when the organization co-hosted it with the West Athens-Lime Street Volunteer Fire Company, said outgoing secretary Phyllis Dinkelacker from the Greene County Volunteer Firemen’s Association.
“The fire departments in Greene County rotate — next year, it will be Coxsackie Hose Company No. 3,” Dinkelacker explained. “There is great camaraderie between fire departments, and this brings the departments and their neighbors together to celebrate the family that is the fire service.”
Roughly 60 units marched in the dress parade Saturday afternoon, from Greene, Columbia, Albany, Orange and Rensselaer counties. The event drew both fire companies and spectators from across the region.
Savannah Ferretti, 12, comes each year with her family.
“I come to the parade every year,” Savannah said. “My dad, my aunt and my brother march every year. They are with the Palenville fire department. I am very proud to see them marching.”
Harry Holbrook, originally from Round Top but now living in Florida, arranged his trip to the area around the dress parade.
“Two of my grandsons are in the parade. They are both with the Round Top fire department,” Holbrook said. “We came to visit the family and we scheduled our trip so we could see the parade.”
Ariel Woolheater is a member of the Haines Falls Fire Auxiliary, and while she wasn’t marching in the parade, she cheered on her fellow volunteers from the sidelines.
“I am not marching, but I am here to support the department,” she said. “I am new to the auxiliary — I joined less than a year ago. I mostly joined to get to know the people in my community better and because I wanted to help people.”
Pat Martine watched the parade with a group of friends and family members.
“My husband was a fireman for over 50 years with the Athens fire department,” Martine said. “I still come out to support the department — we support them 150 percent. We were here last night for the Mardi Gras parade.”
The Mardi Gras parade — complete with creative floats and funky costumes — is the light-hearted parade that traditionally is held the evening before the more formal dress parade each year. Both parades come on the heels of several days’ worth of convention activities, including meetings, dinners and ceremonies.
The dress parade is the final event, closing out the convention.