A 65 year tradition on hold: Burrillville fire company cancels 2024 Field Day & Muster

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BURRILLVILLE – For more the six decades, the Oakland Mapleville Fire Department’s annual Field Day & Muster has brought together local families for food, fun and a little friendly competition on Labor Day weekend.

But changes to the landscape, from the literal construction of new houses, to concerns about traffic, parking and the escalating food costs, have led to cancellation of the popular event in 2024.

“This was not an easy decision,” said Robert Casale, president of the Oakland Mapleville Fire Company, the social club of the district that recently merged with Nasonville to cover all of East Burrillville.

Casale said the committee that typically organizes the event met several times this year before making the call.

“It has been a long tradition of holding the field day and we certainly didn’t want to end it,” he said.

Among concerns is the ongoing construction on nearby Route 102, creating more traffic on Victory Highway by the field where the muster normally takes place, and limiting available parking. And in the past year, a new house was built on a long vacant private lot on the corner of Victory Highway and Oakland School Street that was traditionally used for parking.

“We don’t want to jam up the side streets with cars,” Casale said.

Costs for food and beverages, meanwhile, have skyrocketed. Normally, department members make fresh chowder and clam cakes, and dole out a variety of frozen foods cooked in frialators throughout the day. Pulled out from storage only once a year, the frialators always end up needing advance repair, Casale explained.

“Getting ready is a long process that really, nobody sees,” he said.

Casale said he is hopeful this year is just a pause for the long-running Burrillville tradition.

Musters – events where firefighters compete in various activities that mimic the scene of a real fire – were once common across New England, used both as a way to raise funds, and a chance for firefighters and their families to gather with members of the community.

In the Burrillville village, the first muster was held in 1959 – and it may be the last of its kind still regularly taking place in the region. The event was originally open exclusively to teams from within the town of Burrillville, and took place on the asphalt road right in front of the station on Oakland School Street. Eventually, the field day was opened up to teams from across the tri-state area, and moved into the field across the road.

That location has been home to the OMFD muster since, drawing in crowds for raffles, fair-style foods, a beer booth, vendors and activities. The muster has served as the primary fundraiser for the social part of the department, allowing the group to do things like sponsor little league teams, buy dress uniforms and give to charities.

In the mid to late 80s, more than 20 teams would show up to participate in the event, and competitions would go until 6 at night.

Around 20 years ago, a parade was added, and antique and privately-owned fire trucks have announced the start of the event to those in the village since. Sometime around 2009, the grand prize for the cash raffle was raised as a way to increase attendance.

That popular raffle is the one element of the event that will continue in 2024. Raffle tickets cost $1 a piece, with a grand prize this year of $500; a second place prize of $200; two $100 prized and two for $50. Casale said firefighters will be out and about town selling tickets over the next few months, or those who hope to purchase some can call the station at (401) 568-5720.

“Hopefully we can sell all of our tickets,” he said.

Planning is also underway for a chowder and clam cake dinner to be held the weekend after Labor Day, where raffle winners will be drawn. Ticket holders will not need to be present to win.

With a little luck, Casale says, the muster could return in 2025.

“The committee has voted to look at it again next year and hopefully under better circumstances, it will happen,” he said. “I hope that the community will understand the factors that were involved in making this decision.”

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Having grown up Oakland, I have some fond memories of the field day; memories that go all the way back to the very first one. It was always something to look forward to before heading back to school. Let’s hope a way can be found for this wonderful tradition to continue.

  2. I seem to recall Y-E-A-R-S ago that the Fireman’s Muster used to be held at Hauser Field in Bridgeton?? Is this not an option, or am I mistaken?? This tradition is sooooo looked forward to in planning our arrival for Vacation over Labor Day Week. This is absolutely heartbreaking……

  3. I seem to recall Y-E-A-R-S ago that a Fireman’s Muster used to be held at Hauser Field in Bridgeton?? Is this not an option any longer, or am I mistaken??? I so hate to hear of the Muster being cancelled. That tradition is always looked forward to when arriving for Vacation over Labor Day week. This is just absolutely heartbreaking…….

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