TOWN OF MENASHA - Appleton-based Pierce Manufacturing celebrated 100 years of building fire trucks to keep communities safe Saturday.
Thousands gathered at Pierce as the company opened its doors to the public for the first time.
"It's pretty much fire truck, fire truck, fire truck," said Jesse Suehs.
He and his three sons waited with anticipation for the parade of Pierce fire trucks to roll down American Drive.
"They're all excited to see the big fire truck and big ladders and everything," said Suehs.
For many of the people, it's not just about watching the parade of fire trucks, or even the history of a company. It's about the history of their families.
"My parents have worked here for 38 years. My sister and I worked here for four summers during college," said Suehs.
"I've loved this company since I started here in '75, and it's provided the college education for the kids both have gotten," said his mother, Vicky Bartelt.
Suehs mother, Vicky, says without her job at Pierce, she never would have met her husband.
"Pierce has definitely been a part of my family," said Bartelt.
Seeing the thousands gathered during the open house, the founder's grandson Dudley Pierce says the generations who have built this company and these trucks warmed his heart.
"It made me very proud, very proud. It's all due to the people who work here. They are what make this company great, and what make the best fire engine in the world," said Dudley Pierce.
Over the years, Pierce has turned out some 52,000 fire trucks. Current president Jim Johnson says the family atmosphere has been a main tenet of the company.
"It's all about that people first culture. We can't believe the number of retirees that came back, the customers, the suppliers. We had over 7,000 people register to come," said Johnson.
Members of the general public had their first-ever behind the scenes look at how fire engines are made.
"What most people don't realize is that all of those trucks are handmade," said Johnson.
And folks like Vicky Bartelt, who have built the trucks by hand for years, say they hope the trucks continue rolling out for another 100.
The Pierce 100th anniversary celebration continues Sunday with a 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb at Lambeau Field. The public is welcome to join.
All proceeds go to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
The event starts at 9:30 am. It costs $25 per person.
Good Day Wisconsin will be live at Lambeau as registration for the climb begins.
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