Volunteers Make “Winterfest” A Success

Not a tractor but this milk truck, covered in Christmas lights, made quite a show.

Centralia’s “Winterfest” celebration this year drew the largest number of participants and viewers ever and much of the reason everything went smoothly is due to an outstanding team of Amateur Radio Emergency Service volunteers.  This year’s Lighted Tractor Parade, with over 85 vehicles, floats and large trucks was much bigger than past years with every entrant literally covered with Christmas lights from end to end.  Since the parade is held in the evening, the cold and dark atmosphere seems to make the show even more spectacular.

Behind the scenes, however, it takes teamwork and dedicated volunteers to keep this event safe.  From police department reserve officers to our own ARES team members, volunteers made a difference.  This year saw the largest vehicles ever negotiating their way through five different 90 degree turns on narrow city streets. All made it successfully through the parade route with the help of the ARES team members but there were tense moments around some very tight turns.

These tractors even rated a trailer of their own

Other than helping trucks negotiate the route, our ARES volunteers were tasked with keeping swarms of kids safe and far enough back from the large vehicles to prevent disaster.  With the huge crowds this year, this was a very difficult job.  Candy thrown from the parade floats draws children like a magnet.  Amid all this is the every present danger of a medical emergency happening among the thousands of people along the parade route.  While nothing like that occurred this year, volunteers must be ready to respond immediately knowing how to call for assistance, and giving accurate information and directions for the response.

While our team was not an active part of the huge fireworks display that was Winterfest this year, it contributed to the large crowd numbers helping to attract and estimated 10,000 people to the community.  Bundled in heavy coats, long underwear and thick socks, the ARES volunteers still managed to make this event highly successful and safe.  Their ability to perform professionally under these conditions continues to amaze me.

YOU really, really do make the difference!  Merry Christmas and thank you for all you do as volunteers!

Winterfest Celebration & Lighted Tractor Parade

The Lighted Tractor Parade even has some lighted tractors

The holiday season is upon us and it is time for celebration.  On Saturday, December 9th, Centralia will hold is annual Lighted Tractor Parade from 6pm – 8pm in the downtown area.  Following the parade, Winterfest activities move out to the Borst Park area as Centralia puts on the largest fireworks display ever held in Lewis County.

The Lighted Tractor Parade has become a unique and wonderful downtown event, growing in size each year.  While there are plenty of lighted tractors in the parade, they are joined by large trucks, floats, military vehicles and fire trucks to create a truly different and fun parade.  The downtown area is lighted for Christmas and every storefront is full of holiday cheer.  Just like the Summerfest parade, children and their parents gather to scoop in the candy thrown to the crowd during the parade.  Winding through the ten block main downtown area, the parade takes a little over an hour from start to finish and occurs rain or not.  Last year’s parade was accompanied by heavy rain and even some sleet but it didn’t seem to make much difference to those attending.

Police Chief Carl Nielsen joins the festivities

Collage Blvd full of vehicles waiting for the parade to start

Centralia Amateur Radio Emergency Service volunteers will be on hand to assist beginning with the delivery and set up of the police department’s command van and our own ARES communication vehicle, Comm II.  Stationed at the beginning of the parade, the PD directs their officers from their vehicle while we keep communications open with our ARES volunteers along the route from Comm II.  ARES volunteers, stationed at intersections along the parade route,  assist the larger parade vehicles negotiate four tight 90 degree corners and keep a watchful eye on the thousands of kids who are constantly stepping into the roadway to retrieve candy.  Volunteers also keep an eye on the crowd in case of a medical emergency or some other event which might require an aid car or police presence.

This year, the Winterfest activities have expanded to include the largest fireworks display ever held in Lewis County just after the parade.  Located in the southwest corner of Borst Park, near the athletic fields behind the football stadium, this fireworks display should wake the dead and delight the kids no end.  The fireworks begin at 8:30 pm and last until the last one goes “boom”.

December is truly a joyous season.  With plenty to do in the twin cities during the month, be sure you don’t miss the Lighted Tractor Parade and fireworks display on Saturday evening, December 9th.

See you there!

Welcome Skip Kingman, K1HEK

Skip Kingman, K1HEK

We extend a warm welcome to our newest Centralia ARES team member, Skip Kingman, K1HEK.  Skip participated in our Simulated Emergency Test exercise back in October as part of the Washington State Guard contingent.  At that time, Skip helped in the exercise’s Emergency Operations Center helping to set up a communications link with several outside agencies.  Shortly thereafter, he joined our Amateur Radio Emergency Service team as well.

Skip tells us he has been interested in radio most of his life, building his first crystal set at the age of nine and receiving his first short wave radio at ten.  By age thirteen, he could send and copy Morse code at about  15 words per minute.  After high school, he joined the military and studied radio and radio wave theory and practicality, using this knowledge as a radio communications intelligence analyst in Europe, Asia and Vietnam.

After leaving the military, Skip became a police officer for the next eleven years departing as a division commander.  Most of his professional life, however, was spent in emergency medical services as an NREMT-paramedic, a certified firefighter-paramedic and/or a certified emergency nurse.  After 911, he became involved in hospital disaster preparedness and was involved in setting up amateur radio stations in three hospitals.  It was about that time that Skip obtained his ham radio license and now holds an Amateur Extra class license.

Skip has been part of the Washington State Guard EMCOMM team for over three years and is also part of the EOC RACES team staying involved in amateur , federal and military net operations in the office and in the field with voice and digital communications..

Welcome to Skip.  We will be glad to put his experience to work.

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