The summer fire carnival season opens Monday in Union Bridge.
The carnivals are the lifeblood of most of Carroll's volunteer fire departments, which count heavily on proceeds they raise from the six-day events to fuel their operating budgets through the year and buy such basic items as fire engines and ambulances.
County residents count on the fairs to provide them with entertainment and good food during the long, hot summer.
At fire department fairs, a visitor can find all kinds of games, rides, food, raffles, fire queen pageants and parades. These traditional county events usually are highlights in the communities where they take place.
Music at the events ranges from garage and basement bands that sound a little off-key to the highly professional Johnson Mountain Boys, who sing and play traditional bluegrass music.
Some of the county's fire companies make $15,000 to $20,000 in profits, although a week of rain sometimes cuts into that money.
However, visitors who are interested in catching a glimpse of a the large community of volunteers working for a good cause can go to any one of the 11 carnivals (Lineboro, Pleasant Valley and Westminster traditionally do not have these events) during the summer:
* Union Bridge: May 25-May 30; Union Bridge Fire Hall Grounds, Locust and Whyte streets; 775-7422.
* Gamber: May 25-May 30; Gamber Carnival Grounds, Route 32 and Niner Road; 795-3445.
* New Windsor: June 1-6; parade June 3; New Windsor Carnival Grounds, Water Street; 635-6373.
* Taneytown: June 8-13; Taneytown Carnival Grounds, Route 140 and Harney Road; 756-6253.
* Sykesville: June 22-27; Sykesville Fireman's Park, Route 32 and Freedom Avenue; 795-8021.
* Harney: June 22-27; Harney Carnival Grounds, 5130 Harney Road; 756-6464.
* Manchester: June 29-July 4; parade June 29; Manchester Carnival Grounds, York Street; 239-2286.
* Winfield: July 6-11; parade July 7; Winfield Carnival Grounds, Old Route 26 near South Carroll High School; 795-1333.
* Reese: July 20-25; Reese Fire Company Carnival Grounds, Route 140, four miles east of Westminster; 848-7172.
* Mount Airy: July 20-25; parade July 23; Mount Airy Carnival Grounds, east side of Route 27, off of Twin Arch Road; (301) 829-0100.
* Hampstead: Aug. 10-15; parade Aug. 11; Hampstead Carnival Grounds, 1341 N. Main St.; 239-4280.