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Firefighters convention begins in Potsdam

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POTSDAM — Hundreds of firefighters are expected in Potsdam this week for the 117th annual Northern New York Fireman’s Association convention.

The convention is the annual meeting of 62 fire departments and is expected to draw 1,000 to 2,000 people .

“They will be pretty well-represented, I would think,” said past Potsdam Fire Chief John A. Keleher, who helped organize the week’s events.

The convention was to kick off with a golf tournament and a dinner Thursday. It will begin in earnest this morning, when representatives from the north country’s various fire departments meet to discuss their business.

At 1:30 p.m. today, a memorial service for fallen firefighters will be held at St. Mary’s Church, 17 Lawrence Ave.

At 5 p.m., the association will hold a disaster drill outside Pine Street arena, simulating an accident involving two cars and a bicyclist. A LifeNet helicopter will help with the drill, weather permitting.

After the drill, the firefighters will move inside the arena for a night of dancing, live bands and casino games.

On Saturday, a parade will travel through downtown Potsdam, starting at 9:30 a.m. on Market Street. Afterward, the convention will travel to Norfolk for firematics races at 1 p.m.

The Potsdam Fire Department has been planning the events for months, having been selected as the host after Ilion had to back out late last year.

“It’s not just something you do in a month,” Mr. Keleher said. “It’s come right down to the last week. It’s been pretty hectic.”

The department raised money from local businesses to fund the convention. Some downtown businesses have signs welcoming firefighters to the village.

Every motel and inn near Potsdam is booked, and Clarkson University will provide rooms to visitors who were unable to get a hotel.

“Everyone wants to see it all go off without a hitch,” Mr. Keleher said.

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