Fire-truck lovers will converge on Georgetown this weekend, as antique fire trucks will be on display at the Marvel Carriage Museum as part of the Georgetown Historical Society’s First Saturday.
“First Saturday started in May and runs through September,” said Jim Bowden, president of the Georgetown Historical Society. “We were trying to generate some excitement for Georgetown and the different museums we have here, so we came up with the idea that all the museums would open up for free one Saturday of the month.”
At least 17 antique fire trucks will be on display at the event, coming from all over Sussex County — including Millville’s 1945 Autocar, Millsboro’s 1942 Ford and 1938 Reo, and Frankford’s 1968 Cadillac ambulance.
“I find that the fire service loves to show off their antiques. Most of the time, they only get to show their hometown crowd in a local parade. Especially the older vehicles — they usually don’t take them out except for special occasions,” explained Bowden.
“The only problem for the spectators is you get to see them ride by, but you don’t get a real good chance to look at them up and down, get next to them and take pictures by them, like you will on Saturday.
“A lot of the early ones are from the 1920s. The earliest piece will be the 1883 hand-drawn ladder wagon from Georgetown. They’re really nice antiques, and they take good care of them and have spent a lot of money to restore them. The fire companies love to show their pieces off.”
At least one person from each fire company will be on hand during the day to answer any questions visitors may have about the apparatuses.
“At least one representative from each fire company will be there to tell their story and how their fire company came to be and be able to talk about historic fires in their area.”
Bowden said the fire companies were excited to participate in the show, though some couldn’t, due to their apparatuses being under repair.
“For instance, Lewes Fire’s truck is out of service and won’t be able to bring it this year. It’s having work done on its motor,” he said, adding that he hopes they will be able to attend the event in future years.
During the time when the event is going on at the Carriage Museum, the museum and its village will be open to the public, free of charge.
“We’ll have extra docents on hand to be able to give tours of the rest of the village, as well,” he said. “It’s kind of a village concept — we have a one-room school house, an 1890s church, a couple barns, two old railroad depots and about 30 horse-drawn carriages on display.”
For its first month, First Saturday had a corresponding car show, and Bowden thought holding another such event would boost attendance in its third month.
“I thought, ‘I wonder what we could do to generate some more excitement,’” he said. “I love fire trucks, and it was just a matter of reaching out to the fire companies to see if they were interested. So we decided to go ahead and do it.”
The event will be held on July 11 (moved to the second Saturday of the month, due to the Independence Day holiday), from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and is free and open to the public. First Saturday will also be held on Aug. 1 and Sept. 5.
“It can’t get much better than free,” he said with a laugh.
Participating museums include the Masonic Lodge, the Historic Georgetown Train Station, the Old Sussex County Courthouse, the Delaware Aviation Museum, the Marvel Museum and the Treasures of the Sea Exhibit.
“On the grounds of the Marvel Museum, we also have the Delaware Telephone Museum, which is kind of unique. It’s the only one of its kind in Delaware. It has the history of telephones from the earliest days of Diamond State Telephone in Delaware all the way up to cell phones.”
He noted that many visitors and locals alike are not aware of the history of Georgetown.
“We have people who will come and they’ll say, ‘I’ve rode by this place for years and just thought people had horses here.’ There’s a lot of people who’ve said, ‘I’ve been riding by here for 20 years and I never knew it was a museum.’”
Bowden said the inaugural First Saturday drew 187 visitors to the Marvel Carriage Museum and it has drawn a steady crowd each month. He said he hopes the interest in the Georgetown’s history will continue.
“We’ve been very, very happy with the attendance,” he said. “We’re trying to generate interest in what we consider a very rich history in Georgetown and a very untapped resource for a lot of people. We’ve had a good influx of residents from the east side, as well as tourists visiting… It’s been very heartwarming to see that happening.”
The Marvel Carriage Museum is located at 510 South Bedford Street, Georgetown. For more information, call (302) 855-9660 or visit www.marvelmuseum.com.