Watch Hill firefighters continued a tradition this week that began more than 50 years ago by participating in the Karl E. Kenyon Smokey Bear Parade. Formerly known as the Shoreline Fire Prevention Parade, the parade concept was first developed as a way for volunteers to interact with the local community and as a way for the Fire Districts to display the available fire apparatus that was paid for by the residents and taxpayers of the various Fire Districts along the shoreline communities in Westerly and Charlestown.
Under the direction of former Chief Karl E. Kenyon, the parade grew to include Smokey the Bear and incorporated a larger partnership with many other Fire Districts in the surrounding towns. The parade was eventually renamed in Kenyon's honor following his passing in 2010.
The parade featured various apparatus from all of the Westerly and Charlestown Fire Districts as well as representatives from the Department of Environmental Management Law Enforcement Division and Forest Fire Division, Ambulances and Rescues from local EMS Agencies, and fire trucks from several surrounding communities, including multiple Fire Districts in the towns of Hopkinton, Richmond, South Kingstown, and West Greenwich.
Although the parade followed the usual path, the COVID Pandemic prohibited the usual opportunities for children to interact closely with Smokey as there had been in the past when the parade made long stops in Charlestown, Weekapaug, Misquamicut, and Watch Hill.
However, the parade participants made sure that they slowed down near every group of children waiting along the path and made sure that every child had a chance to see the trucks and to get a wave from the firefighters and their families as well as from Smokey.
We sincerely appreciate the thousands of children and adults that came out to view the more than fifty different vehicles during the thirty eight mile two hour rolling parade and we are humbled by the many signs of thanks and support that were posted or held by children along the route.