Menasha, Wis. - Thousands gathered Saturday as a parade kicked off the 100th Anniversary celebration of Pierce Manufacturing.
The parade was led off by a 1976 Pierce pumper with a unique red, white and blue paint scheme from Jonesboro, Ind. The rig was delivered the year of the bicentennial.
The pumper drove down American Drive in front of the sprawling plant, with at least 4,000 lining the street as over 60 Pierce and Oshkosh apparatus used lights and sirens to excite the crowd. The parade featured rigs from the Fox Valley region as well as newly built units heading to China and Hawaii.
"It's all about that people first culture," said Pierce CEO Jim Johnson. "We can't believe the number of retirees that came back, the customers, the suppliers. We had over 7,000 people register to come."
Some estimates placed over 10,000 people in attandance.
For the first time, Pierce opened the door of their plant to the public as part of the celebration.
Pierce has built over 50,000 apparatus from the Wisconsin and Florida plants over the last 100 years. Those units have been delivered all around the world.
"What most people don't realize is that all of those trucks are handmade," said Johnson.
"They're the first on the scene of a tragedy. We always hope and pray that they never need to be used, but sadly they do like in San Francisco last week," Johnson said. "But, it makes us feel good that at least the mission of what we do everyday helps to serve, protect and potentially save other people."
"A lot of companies don't make it past the first decade let alone the first century and so really there's a handful of companies like that here in the state of Wisconsin," Gov. Scott Walker said as hundreds cheered him on.
Dudley Pierce, grandson of Pierce's co-founder, attended the celebration and he lauded the workers.
"Forty percent of them have been here 20 years or longer," Pierce said. "Now, that's got to say something about the corporate culture and the people that are here."
The various buildings at the facility were open for tours and guests were walked through the manufacturing, painting and graphics processes.
A large display on the history of Pierce was set up next to a large banner where attendees were encouraged to leave their memories of Pierce. Hundreds signed the banner with stories, and retirees shared how long they had worked there.
When asked about the next 100 years, Johnson said "we look forward to continuing to serve the fire service and their needs."
On Sunday, close to 600 particiated in a 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb at nearby Lambeau Field. The event honored firefighters who died in New York City on Sept. 11 and benefited the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.