Engine 260 muster in Milford benefits Camp Happiness
Engine 260 Inc. celebrated its 47th annual muster as one of the oldest and largest in the region of its kind, boasting more than 100 antique fire trucks and 25 teams which competed for the statuesque trophies.
Rainy skies didn’t dampen this spirited annual fundraising event , as thousands from throughout New England enjoyed the many competitions which kicked off with a festive parade through downtown Milford.
“For the 47th year, Engine 260’s Antique Fire Engine Muster and Parade was a terrific time for kids of all ages,” said Mayor Ben Blake. The Engine 260 Muster donates all proceeds made to the Milford Recreation Department’s Camp Happiness Program, which benefits children with special needs.
“The money made during the muster does all kinds of wonderful things for the camp,” said Paul Piscitelli, Director of Recreation. “Camp Happiness is our special needs summer camp that was begun by the late Don Civitello many years ago. The program provides special needs kids with a summer camp experience. The support of Engine 260’s Fire Muster allows us to pay for special events and other things at the camp we wouldn’t be able to do without their financial assistance.”
Camp Happiness, a nonprofit organization founded by the late Don Civitello located at Foran High School, is a summer camp for children (ages 4-13) with special needs which celebrated its 50th anniversary last summer. Marlene Sanchez, who initially became involved with the camp when she was 11 years old, has run the program for the past 25 years.
“For 40 years I’ve been spending my summers here,” she said. “As I got older I became a counselor, helping give every child the opportunity to have a typical camp experience. They come to camp when they are four and five years old and we watch them grow up to 12 years old and beyond.”
“The event is built around the fire service with competitions in various aspects of the fire service,” said George Ambriscoe, co-chair of event and a retired senior fire inspector.
“Every year for the past 47 years the donations from the muster come to Camp Happiness and that allows camp to be able to have all kinds of special events,” said Sanchez. “The kids can experience quality camps through their funding. Without them we wouldn’t have all our events happening, they’re a huge part of our camp and of who we are, we are appreciative of all their efforts. We have more than 100 kids come to camp each summer, so over the 47 years thousands of kids have come to camp and have benefitted from the muster’s donations.”
“My brother Richard and I were the event’s founders, being in the fire service myself for 38 1/2 years, I wanted to do a show here in Milford after seeing it done in another towns, so that’s how we started it. We wanted to do something charitable with the show, and we chose Camp Happiness, that’s how we developed it. My Godson Vaughan Dumas has picked up my late brother’s position. We had as many as seven or eight states participate here today - New York, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont.”
“The fire trucks are made by various manufacturers, we had 60-plus (privately owned) fire trucks and apparatus. The kids went crazy over it all, they enjoy it so much,” said Ambriscoe. “There were over 90 trophies awarded.”
Festivities included a motorcade parade of Fire apparatus, a tug o’ war, firefighter team competitions, pumping contests, firematic flea market, exhibitions, demonstrations, food and refreshments. Each year a Show Truck is chosen. The 2018 Show Truck award went to a 1922 Brockway American LaFrance Chemical Wagon owned and operated by the Bantam Fire Company in Litchfield..
“I’m a third generation fire chief from Derby and my son — the fourth generation — is a firefighter,” said Charles Stankye III, former chief, commissioner of fire prevention and control in Connecticut. “My dad started with George’s brother and I started as a 13 years old. We’re all involved, the Ambriscoes got us here, it’s such a great thing we’ve been doing, and we all look forward to coming to this every year. We are all volunteers; nobody makes any money, all the profit goes to Camp Happiness for the kids. The contests are phenomenal, it’s such good camaraderie between the guys - firemen from many states all come to show their antique fire trucks and compete. The oldest trucks here today were two hand trucks from Rhode Island, the Show Truck - we showcase one different truck each year. It’s a great time. Each fire truck gets judged, I couldn’t wait until I turned 18 and could be a judge, and we have about 30 judges.”
Juniors also compete. “I’ve been coming here since I was young,” said Charles IV, firefighter in Derby and Ansonia. “Once I turned 16 I competed with the juniors and at 18, I competed with the seniors. I’m following in our family’s tradition.” Fred Driend, retired Chief from Goshen, New Hampshire added, “No matter where you go, fire department is family.”