When Tom Steele looks back on the last time Pictou County hosted the Maritime Fire Chiefs Association (MFCA) conference in 2009, he said the committee did an excellent job.
“The question we asked ourselves this year is how we can go above and beyond the last time we hosted,” said Steele, the conference’s media relations chairperson.
But with the same committee in place and planning meetings stretching back to 2011, the Pictou County Firefighters Association is on track to putting on another memorable conference.
This Sunday, over 600 fire chiefs, deputy chiefs, partners and fire equipment sales representatives will arrive in the county as part of the 100th Anniversary of the Maritime Fire Chiefs Association.
Gary MacLaughlin, the conference's chairperson, said the group worked hard to obtain the 100th conference.
"It is the goal of the local association to have all delegates and participants leave Pictou County with a positive experience," said MacLaughlin.
This year’s conference theme is A Century of Pride and Challenges and will be held at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
A 105-booth trade show featuring firefighting equipment, radios, clothing, insurance and even vehicles will be set up in the Bell Aliant rink.
“While many of the vendors are Maritime based, there will be representation from companies with national and international reach,” said Steele.
Around 23 fire trucks from across the Maritimes will be on display in the back parking lot of the Wellness Centre.
Steele said that the conference and trade show aren't open to the general public but residents are still able be a part of Sunday night's activities.
“That starts with a parade, including about a dozen antique fire trucks from across the Maritimes,” said Steele. “Marching will be our fire officers, the RCMP pipe band and a colour party.”
The parade starts at 6 p.m. and will leave from the Access Nova Scotia parking lot on Lawrence Boulevard and end at the Wellness Centre. The trucks will be on display in the Wellness Centre parking lot once the parade has concluded.
The annual MFCA Memorial Service will be held at the Pictou County Wellness Centre at 6:45 p.m. and is open to the public. The Rev. Glen Matheson will be officiating at the service to deceased members, firefighters and those lost in the line of duty.
For the 100th anniversary of the MFCA, Steele said the Pictou County committee wanted the day to end with a bang – literally.
“That’s why we’re having a fireworks display near the Wellness Centre sponsored by FX Fireworks that night at 10 p.m. sharp,” said Steele.
Business sessions and guest speakers are schedule from Monday to Wednesday with dinners and entertainment schedule for the evenings. This year’s keynote speakers include: Robert C. Krause, a battalion chief in Toledo, Ohio; Comox Fire Chief Gord Schreiner; Gordon Graham, a retired 33-year veteran of California law enforcement, and; Laura King, editor of Fire Fighting In Canada and Canadian Firefighters EMS.
But it’s not just the firefighters who stand to benefit from the conference. Mike Adam, general manager of the Wellness Centre, believes the event will boost the centre’s reputation as a great place to host large events.
“It’s nice to show that we’re more than just a sports complex,” he said. “It’s a great location for this tradeshow and we can grow these types of events here.”
When the Pictou County Firefighters Association hosted the conference in 2009, Steele noted there was a tangible positive effect in the local economy.
“I can tell you right now that you can’t get a hotel room in the county. Some members are staying in trailer courts or campgrounds as well,” said Steele. “We’re hoping people will come, stay and maybe even vacation here.”
While there’s still a few finishing touches to be done, Steele said the committee will be keeping their eyes on the sky as Hurricane Arthur heads for the Maritimes.
“There may be a few delays in getting people here but we feel confident with everything inside the Wellness Centre,” said Steele. “In fact, Pictou County will probably be the safest place in the Maritimes will all the fire chiefs and first responders here.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn