East Holmes firemen ready to create a splashin’ good time at festival

East Holmes firemen ready to create  a splashin’ good time at festival

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Never let it be said the firemen and EMS personnel from East Holmes Fire District don’t know how to make a splash.

A crowd-pleasing favorite will highlight a day of festivities during the annual East Holmes Fireman’s Festival at Berlin Elementary on Saturday, July 16, where a series of challenging water games will be on tap.

From the opening lineup of live musical entertainment at 4 p.m. to dusk, when colorful fireworks light up the night sky, activities will be nonstop, with the water wars taking center stage.

While the visiting firefighter crews go all out in the water competitions, Nate Miller, event organizer, said there is a unique blend of competitive nature and friendly rivalries that keep the competition fierce but lighthearted.

Firefighting crews come from all around to compete in the water games, each group hoping to perform firefighting drills better and faster than their counterparts. Included in that list of events is the water barrel fight, where departments go head to head to push a hanging barrel to the opponent’s side.

“The other fire departments always look forward to coming here and facing the challenge of beating the rest of the fire departments,” Miller said. “There is a lot of pride on the line, so we always see the very best guys in action, but it is always a very friendly competition because we do have a ton of respect for each other.”

The water games will take place on the small ball field on the southeast corner of the school grounds, and people usually set up camp to get a good seat well before the contest begins.

While the water games are a big draw, so too are the barbecued chicken dinners. Featuring boxed quarter chicken meals with potato salad, chips, fry pies and cheese, the department figures on making 4,300 chicken quarters, and they don’t expect to have any left over. The chicken is available to dine under the big tent or as takeout. In addition, there will be homemade ice cream.

“This has been such a fun and amazing event for us as a department over the years,” Miller said. “Even through the pandemic, people continued to show their support. This is one of the ways we can give back to the community.”

For those who don’t fancy barbecued chicken, there will be four food trucks onsite to offer different cuisine. That lineup will include Keating’s Italian Sausage, Byler’s BBQ, Smokin’ Chippers Barbecue and R&L, which features cold drinks and smoothies.

“We definitely want to provide a variety of food options, but in the past we have run out of chicken, so we’ve needed the other food options,” Miller said.

There also will be the annual auction that will be highlighted by the special fireman’s quilt, hand-stitched by a group of local Amish women. In addition, another unique item among those hitting the auction block will be a rare replica of Walnut Creek Foods semi-truck by Ertl Co., a company well known for its die cast toys and collectibles.

East Holmes Fire Chief John Schlabach said of the replica, “It’s a very rare and beautiful piece that’s not even available to their employees at Walnut Creek Cheese.”

There also will be an engraved Henry Golden Boy gun and other items up for auction. There will be a gun raffle taking place.

Fireworks, water games, music, food, an auction, other games and maybe even the huge ladder truck — with so much to do, there is something for everyone.

“Everyone has their own favorite part of the festival,” Schlabach said. “This is certainly our biggest fundraiser of the year, along with our fish fry. But what is more important is that this event gives us a chance to connect with the community in a relaxing and fun way. They get to see us in a different setting than when we are working, and we get a chance to thank them for supporting us over the years through the levy.”

The Fireman’s Festival actually grew out of what once was Pioneer Days, and the firemen and EMS personnel have done a fantastic job of recreating much of what that event encompassed.

There will be plenty of live music all evening including the group, Broadway, from 4-6 p.m., Call of Grace from 6:30-8 p.m. and Conrad Fisher from 8-9:30 p.m.

“We try to bring in musical entertainment that is different from year to year to keep things fresh, and we have a great lineup this year, one that features a lot of country gospel,” Miller said.

There also will be games and events for kids including the traveling trailer from the Hatchet Club in Sugarcreek, as well as face painting. All of the action leads up to the grand finale, the giant fireworks show at dusk, around 9:30 p.m.

Schlabach said not only does the community provide through donations, but they also volunteer to help during this event, further connecting department to community.

“All of our guys are volunteers, so everything they do here is for the people of our community,” Schlabach said. “I think our community recognizes the sacrifice our guys make, and at the same time, we realize the important role they play in supporting us.”

Whether it is for the fireworks, water games, food or simply to revel in the fellowship, the East Holmes Fireman’s Festival should be a great way to celebrate community and acknowledge the job these volunteers do.