Fire chief also handles the carnival


The first Taneytown Volunteer Fire Company carnival that Jim Salley remembers was in 1946. It was a home-grown affair, with farmers donating hogs and chickens to be served in the food stands.

Mr. Salley was a kid from a farm outside of town, taking in the show. Now, he runs it.

Mr. Salley took a week of vacation from his job as director of plant operations for Keswick Home in Baltimore City to supervise the annual carnival last week. It was a familiar role: he has chaired the carnival committee for many of the past 15 years.

"You start out and you start doing a lot of work and the first thing you know, you're running the thing," he said.

The seven-member planning committee is responsible for aspects of the carnival ranging from booking entertainment to planning the parade to ordering the 942 pounds of beef, 2,037 pounds of chicken, 120 pounds of hot dogs and 716 pounds of ham that carnival patrons consumed last year.

Mr. Salley also serves as chief of the volunteer fire company. His wife, Jesse, is captain of the emergency medical services unit.

The fire company has about 75 active members. It is beginning to need more as the community grows -- Taneytown election district's population rose from 5,538 in 1980 to about 7,400 this year.

"A lot of people are moving into the community and we're not getting a lot of people volunteering," Mr. Salley said. "I guess people work two jobs, some of them, and they can't afford to come in and volunteer."

The fire company uses its junior fire company to recruit prospective adult volunteers. Taneytown's junior company has 19 members, who shared in last week's carnival by operating a stand and cleaning the grounds.

When Mr. Salley joined the fire company in 1958, it was part of community social life.

"At that time we probably had 1,500 people who lived in town and I knew 1,400 of them," he said.

The carnival is one of Taneytown Fire Company's largest fund-raising projects each year. It earned the company $42,000 in 1994.

Mr. Salley's best guess on the amount of time he devotes to the carnival is "half the night and all day" during carnival week, and about 10 planning meetings during the year. Planning committee members have to know community tastes. They book country-western groups or bands that play golden oldies to play at the carnival because that's what local crowds like. They also learned from experience that cars or pickup trucks are more popular than cash prizes with raffle ticket buyers.

The end of the carnival means that Mr. Salley will spend slightly less time on fire company work, but he said both he and his wife put in many hours to meet training requirements. The good news is that one of them isn't sitting at home while the other spends hours at the fire company headquarters on East Baltimore Street. Mr. and Mrs. Salley each have taken firefighter training and she went on to become a certified paramedic. "One of the things that helps out is that both parties are involved," he said.

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