The Beacon Hose firemen’s carnival and parade has become the most anticipated event on Beacon Falls’ yearly events calendar. It didn’t become that way right off the bat, of course. The event has a pretty neat history of its own that has led us to the great time we now enjoy every June.
We consider the official start of our modern carnival and parade to be in 1963, but for a short time after World War II, we also co-hosted an event with the local Schaefer-Fischer American Legion Post 25, as indicated in a newspaper clipping from the April 12, 1947, edition of the Naugatuck Daily News. This carnival was no longer an annual event by the 1950s.
Beacon Hose began to host an annual carnival and parade of its own starting in 1963. In fact, for the first five years of the relaunched event, it was also known as a “bazaar,” as written in a newspaper clipping from the March 24, 1967, edition of the Naugatuck Daily News.
The original event was a four-day extravaganza, lasting from Wednesday through Saturday, with the parade on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. The carnival often included giveaways and a block dance on Wednesday night. The parade used to run the opposite way through town, from Feldspar Avenue to the state garage.
For some reason — likely because of the upcoming preparations to build a new firehouse on the lot formerly used to host the event — the carnival and parade went on a one-year hiatus in 1968. Instead, Beacon Hose held a one-day county fair on June 29 at the fields on Pent Road. The annual cake sale — we’ll get to that in a moment — continued at this event, as did the fun and giveaways.
The carnival and parade made their comeback in 1969, and Beacon Hose hasn’t skipped a year ever since. The carnival was kept a four-day extravaganza, but the parade moved to Friday night and we added a Saturday afternoon matinee. Space was a bit cramped with the old firehouse — now the Community Club — still erected in the parking lot for the next two decades. The parade switched course, marching through the north side of town rather than through the south side. This was the first time the parade passed by the firehouse — it was new, so we had to show it off!
We also kept up the tradition of the cake canvass, when we asked residents to bake cakes for us to sell at one of the most popular booths at the carnival. Event chairman Hanford Cable reported in the June 5, 1969, edition of the Naugatuck Daily News that the drive was, as usual, a success. Eventually, this fell out of favor, but it’s a pretty neat tradition to look back upon.
In 1971, Beacon Falls celebrated its centennial with a variety of festivities, including a parade on July 3. With all of the centennial hoopla going on, Beacon Hose moved back its carnival and parade from its traditional June dates to the end of July. Longtime Beacon Hose member Francis Keith was the chairman of the centennial committee. The year was also special in that it was the debut of our reconditioned 1929 Seagrave Suburbanite. The summary of Beacon Hose’s contributions to the centennial and preparations for the carnival is pretty terrific, as written in the July 16, 1971, edition of the Naugatuck Daily News.
Beacon Hose was set to host its 1972 carnival on the fields at Laurel Ledge Elementary School, but the former owners of the property prevented us from doing so based on a clause in the deed of sale. It stipulated that the property could only be used for school-related activities, so rather than risk the carnival being shut down by a court order, we decided to relocate the event to the firehouse grounds — on only a couple days’ notice. It remains the last time we’ve planned on holding the carnival anywhere but the firehouse. The June 27, 1972, edition of the Naugatuck Daily News explains the situation.
In 1974, we held one of our largest parades to date to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Beacon Hose’s founding. More than 50 units, including fire departments from as far away as North Coventry and Cornwall, marched in the parade. This is also believed to be the first parade we hosted on a Saturday, rather than a weeknight. And as for the tradition of it raining on Beacon Hose’s parade — that’s been going on for a long time, according to the forecast in the June 28, 1974, edition of the Naugatuck Daily News.
Over the last 40-plus years, there have been plenty of tweaks to the event. Among the attractions that have come and gone include circus animal rides, auctions, baked goods sales and the money wheel. Improvements and additions continue to be added each year for the department’s biggest fundraiser.
Beacon Hose hosted more than 50 units for its 100th anniversary parade in 1999, and the parade continues to attract more than two dozen fire departments each year.
After hosting the carnival for 50 consecutive years from 1969-2019, Beacon Hose was forced to cancel the 2020 carnival due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 event will be held in the fall for the first time.