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Potsdam to host firefighters’ convention

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POTSDAM — Up to 10,000 firefighters and family members will descend on Potsdam this summer for the 117th annual Northern New York Volunteer Fireman’s Association convention.

Plans for the annual convention were put on hold when Ilion, the original host village, backed out after realizing the convention would conflict with its yearly carnival.

“It was looking like we weren’t going to have one at all this year, so the guys stepped up,” Potsdam Fire Chief Timothy L. Jerome said.

Host villages usually are chosen nearly two years in advance, but Potsdam was picked only about three months ago. The convention will be held July 6 to 8.

“We’ve been busy chasing our tail for a while, but I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Mr. Jerome said.

More than 150 fire departments will be invited to the convention, drawing thousands of firefighters for a parade, golf tournament, memorial service and firematics races.

The races will be held in Norfolk because Potsdam does not have a proper track.

Thousands of visiting firefighters could provide a significant economic boost to businesses in the village and the surrounding area.

One big question is where these thousands of firefighters will stay. Potsdam does not have any large hotels, but SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University have offered vacant dorm rooms at low cost.

The Clarkson Inn and the Smalling Motel already are booked, and some attendees may stay in hotels in Canton.

This is the first time the convention has been held in Potsdam since 1976, but the association is no stranger to St. Lawrence County. Last year’s convention was held in Louisville.

According to association President Duane St. Louis, everything will be shipshape in time for the convention.

“So far, so good. There’s still a couple of bugs in it,” he said.

The association has its annual business meeting during the convention, and it plans to alter its bylaws to provide more freedom when picking host towns, to prevent any more late surprises.

“We want to keep it the way we’ve had it for the last forever,” Mr. St. Louis said. “We want to keep it together, and have a good turnout, and have everybody happy.”

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