“It was a tough decision… but it was the right decision,” Mike Cook said about canceling the annual Rocky Grove Volunteer Fire Department’s Firemen’s Fair.
And it wasn’t a decision the fire department made on its own. Late last week, Cook, who serves as the fair chairman, spoke with representatives from Bartlebaugh Amusements, who annual provides many of the rides and amusements. He then met with other fire department officials. Everyone agreed – cancel this year’s fair.
“We can’t put on an event under the current situation we are in,” Cook said, referring to the region’s yellow phase COVID-19 mitigation status.
Safety is the main concern for the fire department in all its activities, including the fair, and to put people’s health at risk by gathering them together would be against that mission, Cook said.
“We do know and understand the community appreciates (the fair) and enjoys coming to it,” Cook said acknowledging the disappointment some have voiced online.
Those feelings are not going unnoticed.
High on the list of things the attendees like about the fair is the food and the parade. Cook says the department has already started talking about how to possibly offer those things later in the summer or early fall. Plans are still in the preliminary stages and will be announced on the group’s Facebook page as they are confirmed.
The department is also discussing how to fill the fundraising gap left by the fair’s cancellation. “It’s a hard nail to hammer,” Cook said about the amount of money raised by the event. He estimates it typically brings in $12,000 to $18,000 each year.
One major contributor to those funds is sponsorships, which were behind schedule this year due to the temporary business closures. Sponsorships help cover the costs of items like fireworks, increased building costs, and food purchases. Without that upfront capital, the fair was going to be a financial gamble beyond just being a health risk, Cook said.
The fair isn’t the only thing the Rocky Grove department has canceled in recent weeks. “The auctions and the Bingo (nights) are on standstill at this point,” Cook said.
Still, members are coming together to find ways to bring in needed money. Currently the department is selling tickets for a chance to win a Lake Erie fishing trip.
The annual fund drive, which was delayed for a few weeks, is ongoing as well. Letters were mailed to residents within the department’s service area and included information for sending donations.
“The fund drive is the biggest fundraiser (we) do every year,” Cook said. So far, the community has been very responsive, he said.
“Even a small donation of any monetary value is appreciated. It’s the easiest, simplest thing a person can do,” Cook said.
For now, the remainder of the fall and winter event schedule remains intact, including a gun show, flea market, craft show, and Santa Walk. Cook pointed again to the group’s Facebook page as the best way to stay informed about event details.
He also encourages people go beyond the monetary support when they can. They are always looking for volunteers, even those unable to respond to emergencies.
“We can always use help with everything really. There are hundreds of jobs to do at the fire department just like at home. It’s a big home. It’s a big family.”