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Altamont Fair Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 13, 2009

Firefighters say “Safety Rocks”

By Zach Simeone

ALTAMONT — The Guilderland Fire Department is introducing the area’s fair-going youth to the musical side of safety with its “Safety Rocks” puppet show.

Gregory Wilhelm, 22, whom fellow firefighters call “the father of the puppet show,” came up with the idea two years ago, and has updated it each year since.

“I used to go to classrooms and talk about being a fireman, but it just really bored the kids,” Wilhelm told The Enterprise.

“We want to teach kids about fire safety while having a good time,” said Brian Sullivan, another firefighter who directs the show in addition to playing various roles.

“At the station, we’ve had as many as 100 kids,” added Dale Van Buren, a firefighter who plays the role of Sparky, the firefighting dog in the show.

Including Sparky, the show features a cast of nine puppets, played by eight firemen. The puppets lip-sync to recordings of firehouse versions of classic songs, like “Kids, Don’t Play With Fire,” based on “Light My Fire” by The Doors, and “Call 9-1-1,” to the tune of “Da Do Run Run Run” by The Crystals.

While the puppets were purchased, the nearly eight-foot, two-tiered stage was built by Wilhelm and his father, said Wilhelm. Though the show is put on entirely by the fire department, “anyone who wants to be involved can be involved,” he said.

The half-hour puppet show will run at the Altamont Fair today and Friday at 6:30 and 8 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday at 3 and 6:30 p.m.

For those who can’t make any of the Altamont Fair performances, but still want to see just how much “Safety Rocks,” the show will be performed again at the Guilderland Fire Department’s open house on Oct. 3, and members of the department present at the fair said that they would be taking the show on the road very soon.

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