REESE — It was hot and muggy Tuesday night at the Reese & Community Volunteer Fire Company’s carnival, a summer sweat that even a little drizzle of rain could not suppress, but then, neither did it suppress the crowds.
“We’ll be all right,” said fire company President Norman Schaeffer. “The heat’s not bad. The only problem we had last year is we got rained out on Saturday.”
The carnival in Reese opened on Monday, and will run through Saturday, when they will feature their big money giveaway. But every night will feature fragrant carnival foods and more than 20 rides spread across the 18 acres or carnival grounds, the largest carnival in Carroll County, according to Schaeffer. The carnival opens at 6 p.m. during the week and at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser for the year,” he said. People may support their local fire company’s carnival, but they make a point to "come here. They have to come to Reese carnival."
It’s been a tradition, after all, for 71 years now. Jeannie Zentgraf can tell you so, because she was there for the very first one, in 1947, and she’s been coming every since.
“I probably have missed a couple, but not too many,” she said. “I’m an original. Born and raised in Carroll County. Just turned 83. I’ve lived within a 10-mile radius I’d say, all my life.”
Zentgraf remembers the early carnivals were held at Sandymount School, and organized by Bernie Friday with the fire company. She can remember bringing her children to the carnival as soon as they were older enough to get on the rides.
“Me girls, my one daughter in particular, her birthday is the 21st, which is Sunday,” Zentgraf said. “This was her Birthday carnival. We would come down every night and back then, I would let her and her sister run around and the grounds.”
In all the years she has been coming to the carnival, Zentgraf has been played the big money or other give away.
“I take chances. I have never, ever won anything,” she said with a laugh. "Years ago they used to give away vehicles, they gave away cars. Then it changed money. Either way — never won a thing."
But Tuesday night, a hot dog in hand, it wasn’t the big money giveaway that was drawing Zentgraf across the carnival grounds, but the french fries.
“The big thing is the french fries. They will go through like three tons of potatoes this week,” Schaeffer said, gesturing at a pallet loaded with sacks of potatoes, some of which were being emptied into a peeler as he spoke. “We buy them local from a girl over in Hampstead. They take them right out of the ground — they have 50 acres of them — they dig them up and bring them over.”
The french fry stand, like much of the Reese carnival, has a long history and has become part of tradition.
Today, it is run by Reese Assistant Chief Mike Knight and his brother Matt, but for many years it was run by their father, Roger Knight.
“He dedicated the french fry stand to my brother and I — M & M’s french fries, for Mike and Matt,” Mike said. “When he passed away, July 4 of 2000, my brother and I were 15, just coming up to be new members of the fire company.”
The two have been running the stand ever since, and went through 1,200 pounds of potatoes on Monday night alone. They could have switched to pre-sliced and frozen potatoes, Mike said, but, “We chose to keep the tradition going.”
And on Tuesday, it was clear they had plenty of help.
“Most of these people actually worked with dad when he ran the stand," Mike said, gesturing to half a dozen people washing, slicing and frying potatoes, “and they continue to come out.”
The Reese carnival is just a family and tradition kind of place, Schaeffer said, and that goes for the families that come out to enjoy the carnival, and those that help run it.
“I can go around to any of the stands and it’s the same way — different families, and they come out and help each other for the carnival,” he said. “Same for me. The pizza stand? My daugther runs that. Everybody is here.”
If you go
What: The Reese Reese & Community Volunteer Fire Company’s carnival
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Reese Reese & Community Volunteer Fire Company carnival grounds, 1745 Baltimore Blvd, Westminster