"Fighting fires, that's the easy part," says Doug Rill, a lieutenant in the Arcadia Volunteer Fire Company. "Somehow, you have to fund the equipment that you need to fight the fires."
So every summer, the Arcadia fire company has a carnival. One of its biggest fund-raisers, the carnival runs this year from Aug. 1 through 6. Mr. Rill has organized the carnival for the past four years.
It's easy to spot the bright lights of the Arcadia carnival grounds, about five miles south of Hampstead. When traveling south on Route 30, turn left on Arcadia Avenue and left on Carnival Avenue.
The Arcadia carnival means six nights of free entertainment. Country music fills the air Tuesday with "Son of a Gun," Thursday with "Rough Country" and Saturday with "Roll the Dice." Those Happy Days sounds of the '50s get loose Monday night with "Big Cam and the Lifters" and Friday with "Big Wheelie and the Whitewalls." The "Rhythm in Shoes" dance troupe taps and glitters on stage Wednesday night.
On Wednesday, the annual parade steps off at 6:30 p.m. at Trenton and Dover roads. It will march up Trenton to Arcadia Avenue to the post office. It's recommended that you park at the carnival grounds or grass lots adjacent to the fire house and walk to Arcadia Avenue to watch the parade.
The chief attraction in a fire company parade is fire equipment. The Arcadia parade promises fire trucks from several surrounding companies, plus antique fire apparatus, one or two marching bands, Rhythm in Shoes, a few majorette groups and "this year we'll have lots of politicians, being an election year," laughs Mr. Rill.
The carnival grounds will be filled with rides for all ages. Children, take note -- two "ride nights" are scheduled. For one price on Tuesday and Thursday nights, you can ride as often as you wish.
Food is another popular feature. Arcadia serves hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, fries and soda. All six nights, the fire company also serves platters, typically of homemade fried chicken or roast turkey.
The carnival week "cash giveaway" is a raffle. First prize is $2,000; second, $1,000; and smaller amounts to line a total of seven lucky pockets. Raffle tickets are sold all week. The winners will be announced Saturday night.
Behind the rides and food at the carnival are the men and women working to support their fire company. To be delivered in September is a pumper truck that will replace a Dodge model in use since 1964. The new truck, with an International chassis and body by Pennsylvania Fire Apparatus, will cost $190,000 when delivered and equipped.
"That's cheap by some standards," said Mr. Rill. "Custom built, it would be at least $250,000." The pumper will have all-wheel drive, he said, to permit off-road driving to water sources.
In addition to equipment, the cost of fighting community fires is not cheap. Each member of the staff takes extensive training before stepping on the truck and dedicates hours of volunteer time.
"Our operating budget is over $100,000 per year," says Mr. Rill. "That's just for insurance and keeping the equipment running."
But there's good news in Arcadia.
"Our fire company has started to grow," says Mr. Rill. "We're getting members who are interested in helping with our fund-raisers. We have probably from 75 to 80 active members who respond to calls or participate in fund raising."
In rural areas, where the treasury cannot depend strictly upon solicitation letters because houses are few and far between, the Arcadia company has come up with a slate of unusual entertainment, including a demolition derby, mud bogging, a steam show, Native American pow-wow, and a bluegrass music festival that now attracts thousands. The next bluegrass festival is the last weekend in September.