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Firefighters ball returns after 30 years

It’s been 37 years since retired firefighter Richard Bennett has put on a tie.

“I have my Class A’s (dress uniform) to the captain who replaced me. We were the same size,” he recalled.

The last time he wore one was for the Springfield Firefighters Ball in 1976, the last year the ball was held.

It’s a tradition that’s been sorely missed, and one Bennett looks forward to reviving tonight.

“I’m hoping to see some guys I haven’t seen for 20 or 22 years,” he said. “It’s going to be awesome.”

The Friends of Firefighters is sponsoring the ball in conjunction with the Springfield Professional Firefighters Union Local 333. It is being held from 6 p.m. to midnight today. Proceeds from the ball will go to the Friends of Firefighters community outreach programs.

No one’s quite sure why they stopped holding the annual Springfield Firefighters Ball. Bennett said he thinks the firefighters who used to run it retired, and everyone got too busy to organize it.

After the more than 30-year hiatus, the ball is sold-out tonight. Current and retired firefighters as well as community members are expected to attend.

Beyond the fun of a fancy dinner and dancing at the Courtyard by Marriott, it’s Bennett’s hope the community will see the fire department in a different light.

“For the community and the people we serve, for medics that are on the road day and night and everything we do, it’s also good to have contact with them (beyond) that 911 call,” he said.

With the success selling all 325 tickets, Bennett said it’s his hope this year won’t be the last time he’ll have to dig out a tie.

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