It’s not much of a door, but it’s an important structure and it’s worth a few hundred words. That’s one of the entrances to the Windsor Locks Fire Department’s burger booth at their annual carnival.
Volunteer fire department carnivals are a summertime staple in New England, and probably throughout much of this country. There are thousands of volunteer fire departments across America. There are over a hundred in Connecticut! These brave men and women (that’s not hyperbole, that’s truth) vol – un – teer their time to protect their neighbors and the buildings and businesses in their respective towns. In our town, this carnival is one of the ways that they make money to support those operations.
The firemen started building the booth and the beer garden a couple of weeks ago. It takes time. Just like the training and the drills and the actual putting out of fires takes time. Just like helping accident victims out of cars, responding to false alarms and keeping the apparatus in good working order takes time. Their time.
Carneys, I guess they still call themselves carneys, roll in on Sunday night and setup the rides and the midway. I used to put our daughter on those rides when she was little and I always joined her for a couple of spins on the one pictured here. According to a family friend, that’s known as the Puke-a-Whirl.
If you’re playing bingo, drinking beer or pounding down a burger, hot dog, hot sausage or fried dough, you are supporting the firemen. They use
that money the profit to outfit the space in the fire department where they hang out. They also use some of it for training and fireman related stuff. The town buys the fire trucks, heats the building and pays for the ancillary equipment but the town doesn’t pay the firemen, ‘cuz you know, volunteer. Having firemen hanging out at the firehouse is a good thing, it means they are there if there’s a fire. Just like paid firemen would be.
Friday night there’s a fireworks display and on Saturday there will be a parade. For many years, we didn’t have fireworks. Our dogs didn’t mine the lack of fireworks and Maddie would be fine without them, but the people in town, especially the children, wanted fireworks. The firemen wanted fireworks, too. We didn’t have fireworks because Bradley International Airport is only a mile away. The carnival is in the landing path and the planes aren’t very high off the ground.
Then one year, I was talking to Ken Jeffery, the Fire Chief at the time. Ken said:
“We’re going to have fireworks this year.”
“Really, I thought we couldn’t have them because of the airport.”
“Well, it turns out, we were just asking the wrong people for permission.”
“Who were we asking?”
“Someone at the airport.”
Ken had decided to ask for forgiveness, if necessary rather than permission. He opted to simply “notify” the airport that we were having fireworks on Friday night and let them know that they might want to use the other runway for 20 minutes. We’ve had fireworks every year since.
Ken Jeffery passed away on New Year’s Eve in 2003. I had only known Ken for a few years, but I miss him.
I’ll visit the carnival. I’ll buy $20 worth of food tickets but I’ll probably eat less than $20 worth of food. Gone are the days when I could glom down a hot dog, a burger and a hot sausage grinder at one sitting. It’s OK, the money goes to support a great group of men and women.
This is part of Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors series. You can join in the fun from a link on Norm’s blog.