There is something uniquely small town about a celebration like the Columbia Fireman’s Fair and Parade. The host town of Osceola Mills is a spec of a place; it is hardly justifiable as a crossroads much less a cultural hub. Yet annually since 1923 thousands of people congregate for a parade which zig-zags through the maze of town streets. They stay for the carnival; they ride the rides and play the games. The fair and parade are not unlike countless other fairs and parades, but something is most definitely different about this one. Perhaps it is the well placed timing of the fair – the week surrounding July 4th. Perhaps it is the overriding pride this event elicits – not just of the community but for the entire region in this part of Appalachia. Most likely it is a mixture of both. What remains clear however is that this tiny and even oft overlooked festival is quintessentially and truly American in a way that few other festivals manage to pull off.
Much is made about the Columbia Fireman’s Fair and with good reason too. The fair is a week long carnival which wraps around the July 4th celebrations. The mood is naturally festive and smacks of the old time cut-loose of an era long gone. Amidst farris wheels and carousels are games and activities for the whole family. Dances at the fire hall kick off the fun and music remains fairly steady after that. An eclectic mix of local DJs, bands, and concerts play in the evenings when the rides start up. The fair also boasts a spirited classic car show featuring over two dozen classes of awards for cars, motorcycles, trucks, monster trucks, and race cars. In conjunction with the car show, the last night of events hosts an annual car give away (as in a brand new car). Runners up prizes are often as good as most other grand prizes and include everything from Super Bowl packages to lawn tractors. Though not an annual show, for years in which enough funds are raised for fireworks, the show is usually July 3rd.
The fireman’s parade holds a certain type of carte blanche over the festivities. It is absolutely held on July 4th and the start time is 11:00 AM sharp. Other than that, the most important thing to note is that this parade has drawing power. The town effectively quadruples in size, as participants from all over the tri-county region converge on the parade route. The route itself snakes through downtown streets, dropping in elevation as it marches along. The result is that spectators have a parade literally above and below them at the same time. The region surrounding Osceola Mills continually churns out some of the best marching bands, and all of them are on display in the parade. Fire Engines are a plenty and represent townships from all over the county and beyond, including the heavy duty brush-fire engines and impressive water tankers. It is a thrill for everyone as kids of all ages to rush for candy thrown from these behemoth machines. Loud horns are relayed through the parade route, signally among other things, this country’s birthday.
Admission is Free and Parking is Free