Screen Shot 2023 07 09 at 4.47.39 PMIn the field of amateur sports, one has reached a fine point of development on Long Island and one rarely reported as a sport.  For over 81 years, the Hicksville Fire Department hosted the Invitational Parade and Drill on Labor Day weekend, which has become the most watched event across New York State.  The Hicksville community can claim distinction as the oldest hosting community across the entire state, with a larger spectator attendance than the statewide competition. However, it was more than just a competition between volunteer firefighters. 

Adeline Brigandi, Karl's motherIt was the end of summer and a community gathering. It all started in the 1920’s and lasted through 2009. It was a weekend where friends and families would gather before the start of school. It was one last chance to see friends, have a cold beer, carnival food, and watch the races. It was in 1949 that my mom met my dad during the tournament. He was a “Clam Digger” from the Woodmere Fire Department, and mom was a local girl, Adeline Brigandi (HHS Class of 1944).  As she would tell her family, “it was one wink and a smile that won me over.” She fell head over heels in love and married in 1953. 

Each year, volunteer fire departments across the state gather on weekends to compete against their rivals in speed, accuracy, and skill. A high-speed streamlined racing car - which is not particularly suited for regular firefighting - roars down the asphalt road with a group of men perched on the tailboard, ready to leap. When the precise moment is reached, brakes squeal and the firefighters jump for the hydrant carrying hose lines or dash up a ladder to make the best time possible. You'll see the scene repeated at more than fifteen Long Island venues during the June-to-September fire department tournament season. For some unknown reason, Long Island is a hotbed of such competitions and home to about 80 of New York State's hundred or so drill teams.

There is always much color at the Hicksville Labor Day Parade and Drill. Traditionally, community support on Labor Day is more attended than any other community event. Literally, thousands of spectators gather to watch the parade on Sunday and come back the following morning to watch the drill competition. The Hicksville drill is important as it is the last big formal contest for the firefighters in Nassau County each season. Therefore, it allows a final playoff between the year's top teams to capture important points.

On the drill morning, trailers and tow vehicles spilled out of the open lots across from the closed businesses and lined the street while young men busily unloaded brightly painted machines. Hoods are open, and wrenches sparkle in the sunlight. Unmuffled engines clear their throats now and again. Spectators shuffle through it all, chattering, pointing, and staring.

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