The Orange Firemen’s Carnival is one of the town’s great traditions and there’s not much reason to change the formula. This year’s event, to be held August 1-4 on the town’s fairgrounds on Orange Center Road will feature the usual good, old-fashioned family fun it’s brought to residents for over 90 years.
If the weather cooperates, Carnival Chair and fireman Don Foyer expects about 5,000 people will visit the carnival each day throughout the four-day event. “We’ll have 20 rides, delicious fair food cooked by our volunteers, raffles, fireworks on Friday and Saturday night and games like we always do,” he said. “It’s the department’s major fundraiser of the year.” In addition to food selections that include hot dogs, hamburgers, fried dough and chicken and roast beef sandwiches, this year Eli’s Restaurant will offer lobster rolls for the first time.
The carnival dates back to 1925 – the year the town established its volunteer fire department. Although fire and town officials can’t swear to it – the carnival has been held consecutively each year since then except for two – once during a smallpox epidemic and again during World War II. Though the size of the carnival has expanded dramatically from the days when it was held on the town’s green, the spirit of the event remains the same. While the fire department holds a boot drive, sends out donation envelopes and holds a few smaller fundraising events throughout the year, the carnival provides much of its operating budget for the year. “We took a major hit for a few years when we had to stop the donation mailings but since we’ve been able to resume that things are much better. So far we are on track for a good year,” Foyer said.
First Selectman Jim Zeoli hopes residents attend the carnival and support the fire department. “Many people in Orange are unaware that our fire department is all volunteer and it relies on donations and the willingness of residents and outsiders to spend at the Carnival,” he said. “I am proud of the department and I too gave over 20 years of service as a volunteer. I urge any residents who are able to buy a few raffle tickets and support the efforts of the volunteers.”
This year’s proceeds will help pay for the new, 75-foot ladder, Quaint fire truck which the department custom-ordered over a year ago for $850,000. “It finally rolled into town last week and it will be on display at the carnival,” Foyer said.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent