Devouring a Rita's Italian Ice while eying up other treats, Kaitlyn French, 12, seemed excited to attend the first night of the Sykesville-Freedom District fire department's annual carnival Saturday. The carnival runs through Saturday, June 24 on the fire department grounds on Freedom Avenue.
"The food is really good. I look forward to it every year," said Kaitlyn, of Sykesville.
According to carnival chair Joe McCauley, food stands open at 6 p.m. each night, with the rides opening at 7 p.m. The SFDFD auxiliary will offer full meals inside Legacy Hall from Monday, June 19 through Saturday June 24, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Fire department-operated food stands include the pit beef, ham and turkey stand, pizza stand, funnel cake stand, ice cream stand and soda stand.
"This is a major fundraiser for the fire department," McCauley said. "It helps us buy equipment and all the food is done by volunteers. Usually people don't cook this week, they come here for dinner. It's all good — from the cheese steaks to the pizza."
Department spokesperson Bill Rehkopf said the department is fortunate to receive funding from Carroll County for their operations budget, but the funding does not cover their total operating expenses.
"The carnival, in addition to some of our other fundraisers through the year, helps fill that gap and we're grateful to the community for their ongoing support," Rehkopf said.
Two years ago, the department decided to try a Saturday-through-Saturday schedule to see if it would be welcomed by the community.
"We've seen the success that other departments have had with a similar schedule, and thus far, we've been pleased by the results," Rehkopf said.
In addition to the rides by Shaw and Sons Amusements, the carnival features various musical acts that will be playing through the week, with tastes ranging from classic rock to oldies to country. An annual fireworks show will be held Friday night. The carnival also includes various games of chance, including a big jackpot, which is drawn on the final night of the carnival.
Mari Barnes, co-chair of the junior firefighters program, supervised junior firefighters who served drinks and sno-cones.
"Kids start at age 12 and help until they're 16," Barnes said. "This is how we get money for field trips and equipment. I think it makes the juniors more well rounded. As firefighters, they'll need to do things in the community and this prepares them for that."
Junior firefighter Abby Burrows said volunteering at the stand "shows the dedication I have for the program."
"The program has changed my life," Burrows said. "It gives you motivation to do better in school and to become more involved in the community."
Richard Neith, owner of the Rita's in Eldersburg, also had a stand at the carnival.
"I like to support the department," Neith said. "We are successful here and on warm nights we do very well."
Members of the Holy Spirit Lutheran Church manned the ice cream stand.
"The fire department gives the church a portion of the proceeds for our youth events," said church member Craig Kugler. "It gets pretty busy on weekends. We serve Hoffman's homemade ice cream and it's a big thing in this area."
Emergency medical technician Julie Schuyler served up funnel cakes and fried Oreos.
"It's just one of those traditions at fairs and carnivals. People always look forward to it," Schuyler said. "Every night you'll see tons of people sharing — kids and grown-ups alike — at the picnic tables and even sitting on the ground."
Brianna Anderson, 12, and her brother Alex, 9, both of Sykesville, feasted on Rita's ice at the picnic pavilion.
"I like all of it," Brianna said. "I really like the funnel cakes, chicken and cotton candy."
Alex said he looks forward to the funnel cake every year.
"I like them because they're sugary," he said.
Brad and Alicia Roberts, of Sykesville, enjoyed french fries in the company of their 11/2-year-old daughter Delaney.
"Normally we always come for the pit beef," Brad said. "I like the atmosphere here. It's friendly and there are lots of people I know."