LIVERMORE -- It was a party fit for a world-famous incandescent light bulb.

Live music, balloons, ice cream, heritage costumes, firetrucks, speeches and at least a half-dozen birthday cakes commemorated the 110th year of illumination of Livermore's renowned "Centennial Light," thought to be the oldest continually running electric bulb on the planet.

Organizers of the hometown gathering -- held Saturday at the light's longtime residence at Fire Station No. 6 in Livermore -- said it was as much a tribute to the human qualities of service, loyalty, hard work and quiet perseverance that the bulb has come to represent.

"We all understand how fragile and ephemeral a light bulb is, and yet throughout our lives we're looking for something that is constant and dependable," said Vice Mayor John Marchand. "You will not find anyone more dependable than the (firefighters) who have served under that light bulb."

A large banner with a timeline illustrated the historic events that have unfolded under the bulb's watchful glow, from the Wright brothers' first flight, in 1903, to the opening of Disneyland, in 1955, to the falling of the Berlin Wall, in 1989.

Manufactured by the Shelby Electric Company in the late 1800s, the light and its mysterious longevity remain objects of fascination. It is monitored 24/7 by webcam, and its website, www.centennialbulb.org, has followers from every continent except Antarctica. It has been featured in documentaries and is the subject of two children's books.

As the story goes, Livermore Power and Light Company owner Dennis Bernal donated the bulb to the Fire Department in 1901, a time when there were just one or two electric bulbs in all of Livermore and the modern convenience would have been welcomed by the city's volunteer "fire boys," as they were then called. Residents recalled first seeing it lit in the department's hose cart on L Street. Shortly after, it was moved to the new Station No. 1 on First and McLeod and eventually to its site on East Avenue. It has only been turned off a few times over the decades.

Still, it wasn't until 1971, when a local journalist began researching the history of the bulb, that its age became apparent. Before then, the fixture -- which now hangs from the firehouse rafters, safely out of reach and over a little shrine complete with guest book and framed letters of recognition -- received little reverence, said retired Deputy Fire Chief Tom Bramell.

"We used to hit it on the way out of the firehouse for good luck," Bramell said.

Like the firefighters who have served the community since the days of horse-drawn buggies, the bulb has been a steady presence -- at times a much-needed light in the dark, he said.

"I know there will be day when this will probably come to an end, as everything does," Bramell said of the bulb's unwavering orange-red shine. "But I also know this bulb and the service it has provided for so long is timeless. The light bulb is so amazing; it brings people together from all over the world."

Contact Jeanine Benca at 925-847-2125.

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The 110-year-old bulb "brings people together from all over the world," says Tom Bramell, a retired Livermore deputy fire chief. The light has inspired children's books and a website.

Doug Duran/Staff photos
Vintage light bulbs are displayed during Saturday's party for the 110-year-old "Centennial Light" at Fire Station No. 6 in Livermore.