Reese fire carnival brings back fresh fries

Volunteer firefighter Matt Knight and his family have been making French fries at the Reese Fire Company Carnival for generations. Here's how it's done.

(Jennifer Turiano | Carroll County Times)

Although rain poured for the first 15 minutes of the Reese Volunteer Fire Company carnival in Westminster, it did not act as a major deterrence for locals who come out for the festivities year after year.

Westminster resident Vicki Patterson and her family sat at a picnic table under a bench eating pizza and french fries to wait it out. Once the torrential downpour ended and the sun came out, there was still a drizzle as a rainbow appeared on the horizon.


We go to other carnivals, she said, “but mainly this one. I try to make a point to go to this one to see the Dell family.”

Although a Patterson now, she comes from a long line of Westminster Dells and they all run into each other at the Reese carnival every year.

“It used to be that a lot of my cousins worked on the stands,” she said. “I don’t know why they don’t anymore.”

Patterson said she would have picked it up, but she’s got grandbabies to look after, and they can be a lot of work.

Working the stands at the Reese carnival is not an uncommon tradition for local families, though.

“Every stand’s got some [family history],” said Reese Volunteer Firefighter Matt Knight Monday night.

He said that his family has not only been volunteering at Reese for generations, but also manning the french fry stand.

Knight’s father, grandfather and uncles have all volunteered with the fire company. And he recently took over the popular food stand with his twin brother.

“We are known for our french fries,” he said. “We get them delivered from Hampstead, we put them through the peeler, take the rinds off, dice the potatoes into fries — and that’s when they go into the fryer.”

As the sun set, the french fry line grew longer, bringing with it more donations for the fire company.

“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Knight. “All the money goes to apparatus, new apparatus, building renovations, volunteer staff.”

The fire company raised $347,000 at last year’s carnival, and in addition to standards expenses is planning for a new fire truck and an addition to the fire house this year.

Around the corner Westminster resident Pete Samios was dipping his last fry into a dollop of ketchup. He said he specifically comes to the carnival each year to help the fire company, and for the fries.

“I eat here probably four out of the six nights,” Samios said. “I usually go just to eat, play the chance [games] — that’s my contribution.”


He said with the farm-to-carnival spuds right there at the stand, “you can’t get them any fresher than that.”

Jonielle Fitzberg and Ben Seher, Hanover residents who grew up in Westminster, are also fans of the food at the Reese fire company carnival. The two dressed their piping hot potato sticks with one hand and held pit beef sandwiches with barbecue sauce and red onion in the other.

When asked what her favorite part of the carnival was, Fitzberg told the Times, ”probably the food,” before motioning to her little girl in tow, Payten Domena, 6 — “but it depends who you ask.”

Payten’s favorite parts are the rides and games, she said. The mission Monday night was to win a gold fish.

“We’re gonna have four fish,” she said.

Seher explained they have three fish at home — two of which they won at last year’s carnival.

The carnival will continue from 6 to 11 p.m. each evening at the Reese Carnival Grounds until Saturday, July 21, with live music each night, more than 20 rides, and a raffle drawing on Saturday. More information on the carnival and its offerings can be found at: