By Caitlin V. Reidy, Reporter

Handlebar mustaches, a variety of inviting food trucks, fire hoses, and an epic DJ weren’t the only things present at Wachusett’s 95th Annual Firefighter Muster in Rutland on Saturday, June 18th.

A sense of community, family, and nostalgia helped to celebrate Rutland’s 300th birthday with the gathering crowds to support our ‘men and women in red’ from eight surrounding towns. Bolton, Boylston, Harvard, Holden, Princeton, Rutland, Sterling, and West Boylston competed in a series of events that displayed each fire department’s strength, agility, and sportsmanship.

The Muster kicked off with a parade on Main Street in Rutland, followed by the National Anthem, which was performed by Rutland EMT and firefighter, Sarah Wozniak, and then proceeded with several different challenges that each town competed for against each other.

Our heroes in red dominated Main Street in Rutland through interdepartmental competitions which included challenges in Tower, Hose, Bed, Pump, Women’s, and Old Timers. Throughout the day, there were families cheering, barbecues sizzling, and music blasting to capture each moment.

The DJ was in-tune with every minute of teamwork, family fun, and competition by playing fan-favorites such as “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock, and “Under Pressure” by Queen. Hundreds of people from all of the different towns joined in to sing simultaneously to show support.

Sabrina Heiniluoma, resident of Rutland and owner of Wachu Makin’? gift shop in Holden, was at the Muster with her husband, Dan, to sell t-shirts from their business that celebrated Rutland’s Tricentennial. She stated that she was also there to help support the “united front” of first responders from all towns that were gathered together.

“This isn’t just about competition, it’s about solidarity,” Mrs. Heiniluoma stated. “This is about communities coming together and supporting our firefighters, who risk their lives to keep us safe.”

Mrs. Heiniluoma stated that the Muster was also “fun” because she got to “eat pizza, drink beer, and watch firefighters all day.”

Ashley Kent, from West Boylston, was supporting her local fire department at the Muster as well. “This is about supporting local law enforcement and fire protection officers.” Miss Kent, though from West Boylston, said that she was “cheering on” all departments as they competed in each event.

Partway through the festivities, Princeton’s firetruck experienced some mechanical difficulties during the pump run. However, in a true sportsmanship fashion, Sterling stepped in and lent them their equipment so that they could complete. Not only did this mark a true moment of solidarity between departments, but it garnered recognition from the crowds and judges at the Muster. Sterling ended up taking home the Martin McNamara Memorial Award for Sportsmanship because of their helping hand and selfless contribution to Princeton.

That wasn’t the only award Sterling secured at the Muster. In the Old Timers’ event, Sterling took the gold with an impressive set of speed and running skills that would have had Forrest Gump eating the dust. In order to compete in the Old Timers’ competition, firefighters must have served at least 20 years as fire protection officers.

When the festivities concluded, the tallies were added up, and West Boylston took third place, Harvard took second place, and Holden took first place in the competition, which was complemented by the DJ’s musical performance of “We are the Champions” by Queen.

In conjunction with departmental achievements, the perfect, breezy day in Rutland was accompanied by fun, food, family, and firehoses. There was a true sense of solidarity among the towns represented, as well as a strong sense of community and American patriotism as a whole. Next year’s 96th Muster will be taking place in Bolton, Massachusetts.

Thank you, Rutland, for hosting this event, and Happy 300th Birthday!