Editorial: Take a ride, play a game, eat a meal to support your local fire company at a carnival

There is nothing natives of or transplants to Carroll County associate more with summer than the firemen’s carnivals held from Memorial Day weekend through mid-August, a tradition that goes back many decades and has always gone a long way toward the funding of the volunteer fire companies.

Clearly, emergency services in Carroll County are changing. Fewer and fewer folks are willing or able to volunteer the time it takes to be a firefighter, not to mention all the time it takes to become trained and to keep up with certifications. The first major step toward morphing into a combination volunteer-paid force came last year with enabling legislation that gave the county the ability to establish a fire service. Another step came with the passage and adoption of the fiscal year 2020 budget that calls for the hiring of, essentially, a county fire chief and administrator.


Make no mistake, however, regardless of the change that has begun and will likely continue for years, the fire companies in the area still need community support and the carnivals provide a chance pretty much every day of the summer to show that support. Each and every fire company is hoping for good weather and big crowds the week of its carnival, most of which run Monday through Saturday.

The fun began Friday, when the Gamber Fireman’s Carnival got things started earlier than usual with plenty of food, music, games and rides that will continue through Saturday. “This is about camaraderie, this is about community, this is about family and good food and good times,” Bruce Bouch, public information office with the Gamber volunteer fire company, told us on opening night.

The Union Bridge Fireman’s Carnival followed close behind, beginning on Memorial Day. It, too, runs through Saturday, with “food galore,” according to a promotional poster, the annual Fireman’s Parade at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and bands on stage through Saturday — in addition to rides and games.

After that, it’s New Windsor’s carnival starting on June 3 followed by Taneytown’s starting June 10, Sykesville-Freedom’s June 15, Harney’s June 24, Manchester’s July 1, Winfield’s July 8, Reese’s July 15, Mount Airy’s July 22 and then, after a little break, Hampstead’s, as it does traditionally, rounds out the carnival season beginning on Aug. 12.

Admission is free, but games, rides and food, of course, cost money. That’s how funds are raised. (Donations are also welcome.) Each carnival fills a niche and is known for something. In addition to what you find at every carnival, for example, some offer fireworks or other more unique activities. Check the various fire company websites throughout the summer for additional information.

It’s hard to imagine summer in Carroll without these fun and events. And for the fire companies, it’s hard to imagine how they would function without their community’s support of these and other fundraisers, such as bingo nights, spaghetti dinners, raffles and social gatherings that all raise money to help pay for equipment and training. For most of the 11 companies that put on summer carnivals, it is their biggest moneymaker of the year — collectively raising hundreds of thousands of dollars — with volunteers and auxiliaries doing much of the support work, from cooking to cleaning up each night.

By attending a carnival or two or three this summer, you’ll not only be able to enjoy surprisingly good food, take a whirl on some games of chance that can win you everything from goldfish to stuffed animals to significant sums of money, have fun on rides that range from tame to terrifying, listen to local and regional country and classic rock acts, and spend time outdoors with family and friends, all the while supporting the fire companies that respond 24/7 to our 9-1-1 calls for service.