Rain pitter-pattered against the two-toned green vinyl tent top at the Dalton Fire Company carnival grounds as I took cover Saturday evening, shielding my camera from the drops.
I expected to photograph an army of volunteers preparing for the annual carnival, which was set to begin in three days. Instead, just a handful of people were there. These hardy few gathered around the first table in one of three long rows, covering it with red cloth and a clear protective sheet. They moved on to the next, continuing up the row.
It was only a little past 7, but the sun would likely set before the task was complete, they told me.
When I returned to the carnival grounds Sunday afternoon to take more photos, a group of volunteers not much larger than the night before (and including many of the same faces) was hard at work under the blazing sun. They hammered poles into the ground, measured the spaces between them and attached ropes with small flags to create rows for parking.
After snapping some pictures and watching for a few minutes, I crossed the short distance up the hill to the Chinchilla Hose Company stand, where I found another group of volunteers busy cleaning the counters and getting the oven ready for pizza making.
The annual Dalton Fire Company Carnival, now in its 97th year, is a well-attended event, bringing in crowds not just from the borough and neighboring municipalities, but from other counties as well. Hundreds of cars fill the lower and upper parking areas throughout the week. People pack the bar and bandstand area. The line to the corn and clam stand often stretches the entire length of the big tent (the same one where volunteers prepared the tables Saturday night). The rest of the food booths also attract a constant flow of customers, and the games and rides run almost nonstop.
Which is why I was surprised at the small number of volunteers who labor for at least a week – many for two weeks or more – to prepare for the five-day event (and for another several days to clean up and tear down afterwards).
I suspect most people who enjoy the carnival don’t have any idea how many hours of hard work go into it and how few people there are to get it all done.
I had only a vague idea before Saturday.
They need more help.
And they deserve more recognition.
They don’t get paid, yet they return year after year out of a love and dedication to the fire department. The fundraiser is vital to the purchase of trucks (which can cost more than $1,000,000) and other necessary equipment to keep the company running.
Now that we know, here are four things we can do about it:
First, thank the volunteers when you spot them, and let them know their hard work is appreciated.
Second, make a donation to the department, if you are able.
Third, bring your family and encourage your neighbors to join you at the firemen’s parade on Friday at 7 p.m. Clap, cheer and overwhelm the volunteers with support.
And fourth, if you really want to make their day, ask how you can sign up as a volunteer.
Oh, and a bonus: have a good time. Enjoy the carnival. Ride the rides. And eat too much funnel cake.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100, ext. 3492
Dalton Fire Company Carnival
The 97th annual event kicked off Tuesday evening, July 9 and will continue each evening through Saturday, July 13. It opens at 6 p.m. and closes at 11 p.m. each day on the carnival grounds on Bank Street.
The dunk tank this year is sponsored by Lackawanna Trail Friends of Music.
Happy Faces Painting will be on hand.
Midway is provided by Otto’s Amusements. Ride wristbands are $20. With this wristband, your child will be able to ride all night.
Bingo will be offered nightly.
Music by Old Friends, 7-11 p.m.
Firemen’s parade, 7 p.m.; line up at 6 p.m. For parade information, contact Justin Sturdevant at 570-527-0231.
Stop by the beer tent after the parade to hear sounds by the Greater Scranton Black Diamonds Pipe Band.
Music by Inside-Out Band, 7-11 p.m.
Basket drawing and grand prize drawing at approximately 10 p.m.
Music by Mace In Dickson Band, 7-12 p.m.