Parents and children bundled in coats, scarves and hats waited with eager and chilly breaths at Lakelands Park in Gaithersburg for the arrival of the menorah fire truck parade Thursday evening.
The firetruck was scheduled to arrive in the parking lot adjacent to Lakelands Park at 7:25 p.m., but it was running close to a half-hour late. Some parents were ready to take their children home when cheers rang out.
“It’s coming! It’s coming!” shrieked children as the sounds of sirens could be heard and the flashing red and white lights of Rockville Volunteer Fire Department engine 33 pulled in to the parking lot among a caravan of cars.
One of the vehicles was a dark-colored van decorated with neon blue holiday lights. Suddenly, the doors to the van flew open and out popped several men, bearded and wearing traditional dark-colored jackets and pants.
“Happy Hanukkah!” they cheered to the spectators.
Hanukkah music started playing in the background as the men danced and sang and jumped up and down, grabbing the hands of parents and children to join in the festivities. Moments later, fire jugglers appeared and the children watched in awe as they performed their flaming tricks.
Gaithersburg resident Laura Friedman said the menorah firetruck ride is a festive event.
“Oh my gosh, it was amazing,” Friedman said. “This was their fifth stop and they still had that much energy and enthusiasm.”
The Rockville Volunteer Fire Department carried on its tradition of parading from downtown Rockville to Gaithersburg as it carried an illuminated menorah on a firetruck Thursday night.
As part of the tradition, the menorah — a nine-branched candelabrum — was secured to the front of the firetruck. A rabbi donned in firefighter gear accompanies the firefighters on the parade route each year.
Rabbi Chesky Tenenbaum, associate rabbi at the Chabad of Upper Montgomery County in Gaithersburg and chaplain of the Rockville fire department, has ridden on the firetruck for the past six parades and said he enjoys seeing the smiling faces of children when he passes out dreidels and chocolates along the route.
“In general, Hanukkah is a very happy holiday,” Tenenbaum said. “Kids like firetrucks, and when they see a menorah and dreidels, it really adds to the festivity of the holiday.”
Hanukkah is the Jewish celebration of the rededication of the Temple by Judas Maccabaeus in 165 B.C. and is celebrated for eight days to reflect that a one-day’s supply of oil lasted that many days. It began Dec. 1.
Eric Bernard, president of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, said the annual tradition started seven years ago as an offshoot of the Santa firetruck rides in Rockville. Bernard said rabbis from the chabad approached the volunteer firefighters with the idea of having a Hanukkah firetruck ride.
Bernard said it sounded like a great idea.
“We have a large Jewish population in this area, and we have a very large Jewish membership in the department who would appreciate this,” he said.
Bernard also said the parade is a good opportunity to “expose members of the community to their volunteer fire department.”
“We like to meet people in happy festive times,” he said. “We don’t just do fires. It’s good to be out in the community and showing people that we are community members too.”
Friedman said she appreciates the menorah firetruck parade because it allows the children to learn about the holiday and brings about a sense of community.
“The chabad is a wonderful organization,” Friedman said. “It’s great that there are people and organizations who want to make Hanukkah widely known and widely celebrated better in the community.”