Conference to draw 400-plus firefighters to Hamilton

Attendees will see a resurgent city and patronize local establishments, supporters say.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

For the third time in 100 years, and the first in a generation, the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters union membership is in Hamilton for its biennial conference.

The conference, which kicked off Monday with a golf outing at Twin Run, will see more than 400 people attending and patronizing the establishments around the city.

“It’s a big point of pride for us to be able to host,” said Tony Harris, president of the 103-member IAFF Local 20. “It’s real humbling to be able to do that.”

While it’s a proud moment to host the OAPFF, Harris said it’s a bigger deal for the city of Hamilton, a city that’s seen an economic and development resurgence for the past dozen or so years.

“Our goal is to put on a great time for our attendees, but a bigger piece of that is the economic impact it has in the area,” he said. “People staying in our hotel rooms, people going to our bars and restaurants, people being around town.”

Travel Butler County reports this conference is expected to generate an economic impact of more than $380,000 to the region. Travel Butler County President and CEO Tracy Kocher said the selection as a host site reflects “the incredible amenities and attractions in Butler County and strong local partnerships.”

On Wednesday, the Butler County Regional Transit Authority will unveil its new StreetSpark design on one of its buses. Jennifer Eickelberger’s 2021 StreetSpark design Charge the Line, which is on the IAFF Local 20 union hall, will be unveiled at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the union hall, 204 N. 3rd Ave.

“BCRTA is thrilled to honor our heroes in a truly innovative and dynamic way,” said Shawn Cowan, BCRTA spokesperson. “Showcasing art on our buses through the StreetSpark art program provides a unique opportunity for all community members to experience and appreciate these inspiring artworks firsthand.”

The public can see the bus near the RiversEdge Amphitheater later on Wednesday during the firefighter-sponsored Scotty Bratcher concert scheduled for 7 p.m.

“The thin red line represents the courage firefighters show on a daily basis,” said Eickelberger, the wife of Hamilton Fire Chief Thomas Eickelberger, of her design. “There are 13 stars to represent the 13 firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty for the Hamilton Fire Department.”

Since 2008, the conference has rotated among Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo, and the 2022 conference was hosted in Cleveland. Hamilton had hosted the conference twice, the last time being in 2002, but the time prior was a century ago in the 1920s when the OAPFF was new. Hamilton was one of the first local unions in Ohio.

Harris said the door is now open with Hamilton, as well as other small and medium-sized cities outside the big four.

“We wouldn’t be able to host it if we didn’t have the facilities,” he said. “If we didn’t have the hotel rooms or the conference center space that Spooky Nook provides, we wouldn’t be able to pull it off. That’s the reason they’re normally held in those big cities. We punch above our weight.”

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