Osceola Mills has one stoplight, barely necessary in a sleepy town with little traffic. But on the Fourth of July every year, the borough briefly grows gridlock to rival downtown Pittsburgh with the annual Firemen's Parade.
Every central Pennsylvania community seems to have one. Firetrucks, twirlers, tossed Tootsie Rolls. In some towns, they may take 15 minutes and barely merit rerouting traffic. Osceola Mills, however, has elevated it to a cultural phenomenon.
Fire companies come from near and far, with dozens of shining trucks competing to show that their engines and ladder trucks are the best out there, with a big shiny trophy to prove it. Marching bands, local politicians, all the same components, but after 90 years of pulling this party together, the Columbia Fire Company has achieved huge participation, and an even larger audience.
On Tuesday night, you will start to see lawn chairs lining the parade route. The porches on Stone and Lingle streets will be heavy with revelers long before the 11 a.m. stepoff. If you are driving into town, come early. The only thing harder than navigating the packed streets is finding a parking space.
The parade is the centerpiece of Columbia’s week-long Firemen’s Festival which culminates in the midnight raffle drawing on Saturday, with the top prize of a 2012 Ford Fiesta.