By Kelly Wolfe

When in doubt, walk right up to the guy in the kilt. It makes life more interesting. And in this case,

it’s the best way to find the guy running things.

Capt. John Ficsher of the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Pipe and Drum Band, has spent the better part of a year

collaborating with Delray Beach, bringing hundreds of firefighters from around
the world here to march on Atlantic Avenue during city’s the 42nd Annual St.
Patrick’s Day Parade.

“It gives people a sense of stability in unstable times,” Fischer said, as dozens of his colleagues shined red fire engines and handed out green beads nearby.

“It’s important to show unity. We’re all here on one street, on one day.”

Fischer, a firefighter 24 years, said Delray Beach honored firefighters at its St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the first time last year. Now, it’s an annual tradition.

“Absolutely,” Fischer said, when asked if he’ll be back next year.

More than an hour before the official parade kickoff, Atlantic Avenue was a festive sea of green — wigs, dresses, socks, beads, flip-flops, boas. People strode along the avenue with

dogs, strollers and emerald balloons. Women wore shamrock-shaped freckles, men
donned oversized green hats.

John and Barbara Connolly live in the Bronx, but they’ve been coming to the Delray Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade for eight years.

“It’s a nice group of people,” John Connolly said.

And it’s sunny.

“In New York it’s always snowing,” said Barbara Connolly.

The weather also lured Lt. Peter Halderman, a firefighter from Dublin, Ireland. He spent a gray, rainy

day circling the airport in West Palm Beach, the day before. But now that he’s
standing in the sunshine, he’s not disappointed.

“We were going to go to New York,” said the 29-year veteran. “But then we said ‘Hold on a second, New York’s too cold.’ ”

He said he’s enjoying the hospitality, and has made a lot of friends. But he isn’t quite sure he’ll remember them once he gets back to Dublin.

“Ask me tomorrow,” he said. “Today is going to be a long day.”

Gary Sands, a paramedic on Palm Beach County’s Trauma Hawk air ambulance, had a more altruistic take on the day.

“To me, it’s giving back,” said Sands. “It’s showing the community we’re there for them.”

Joe Rodgers, an antique dealer from Wellington, brought a 1950 fire engine to ride in the parade.

He likes to take the truck around the state, riding in parades and showing it off.

“It’s not like the new ones,” he said, opening the door and giving a guest a gander inside.

“The kids get on it, women get behind the wheel,” he said. “Everybody loves a firetruck.”


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