The founding fathers of the Village of Cherry Valley would have been pretty proud to have seen the big party going on Saturday across the village, as the Cherry Valley Fire Department celebrated its bicentennial. The village knows how to celebrate, having just come off last year’s bicentennial of becoming incorporated.
Cherry Valley was also the host community for the annual Otsego County Firemen’s Convention, and it had something truly significant to boast of, as the Cherry Valley Fire Department is the 10th oldest continuously operating department in the United States. The City of Hudson Fire Department is the only company ahead of it in New York, eighth in the nation. Boston, Mass. is the oldest, organized in 1678. A banquet for the convention began the weekend celebration on Friday evening at the Cherry Valley Community Center, where more than 130 attended.
Saturday had a full day of activities at various sites, beginning with a pancake breakfast, and throughout the day there were crafters, vendors and a “bouncy house” and climbing wall for youngsters at Alden Field. As an additional fundraiser for the fire department, commemorative glass mugs were sold throughout the day. Although weather was pretty damp at times, conditions improved late in the day.
An estimated 3,000 people lined the streets of Cherry Valley at 6 p.m. to take in more than 30 entries from fire departments across Otsego County and the region, school bands, antique cars, tractors and plenty of floats created by local clubs and organizations, 65 units in all, as the parade lasted nearly 90 minutes. A particularly impressive part of the parade was provided by the Cobleskill Fire Department, as marchers in the parade walked beneath a giant American flag, suspended from their big ladder truck. Fireworks at dusk and a dance with music by The Redeemers rounded out the day’s festivities.
During the parade, the Cherry Valley Fire Department showed off a bit of its history, in the form of “The Washingtonian,” purchased from the city of Albany in 1814 as the second oldest fire pumper in New York. It is on permanent display at the Cherry Valley Museum.
It was at the second annual meeting of the village on May 11, 1813, when it was voted to raise $100 for the purpose of repairing the roads and walks and another $100 for the purpose of organizing a fire company. At first, every resident became part of the new fire department, as by law they were required to have and use a bucket for their hot ashes. It wasn’t until August 1818 when the first fire company was organized, with 20 members.
Kathryn Lane, an auxiliary department member and treasurer of the Cherry Valley Museum, said that at one time, Cherry Valley had two fire companies at the same time, the Empire and Glensfoot Fire Companies. They merged in 1911 to become the present Cherry Valley Fire Dept.
Two of the worst fires in the village’s history were in 1866. In June the Harmony Row fire consumed much of the south side of Main Street. In July, what was called The Great Fire consumed much of what was the north side of Main Street. As a result, the village purchased a much larger pumper.
Scott Flint, department member and bicentennial events chairman, said Saturday’s celebration was a year in the planning. Neighboring departments were on call, just in case of any fires or emergencies.
“We’re very grateful for our neighbors,” Flint said, “and we always work well together.”
Marty Field, fire chief, said he and the rest of the department were surprised to hear of being the tenth oldest continuously operating department in the nation, but Susan Murray-Miller, village historian, confirmed the fact.
Field commended the department and numerous members of the community for all the support to make Saturday’s celebration a huge success.
“Without them, there was no way we could’ve done this.”