BENTON TWP. — The Abington community showed its support for the Fleetville Volunteer Fire Company at the inaugural Fleetville Fall Fair.
Held Saturday, Sept. 7, the fair was organized to raise support for the fire company and awareness of its need for new members.
A group of active and social members of the Fleetville Vollunteer Fire Company came together to form a planning committee. Michelle Ross led the way with help from the Hay family, Mike and Andreia Halmo, Vanessa and Dan Canfield, Lynn Bellas, Susanne Green and Dianna Varady.
“Michelle Ross started planning a fall vendor fair. When I heard about it, I wanted to be a part of it and knew it was something I could really get behind. Then, it just grew,” Green said. “We had 35 vendors, then there were 45, then 55 and it kept growing.”
Word spread, the community rallied, and on Saturday, 95 different vendors, events and activities were available for the first Fleetville Fall Fair.
Vendors sold crafts, honey, soaps, jewelry, antiques and more. Activities included junior fire fighter training, live animals, a bounce house, face painting and balloon sculpting. Events occurred all day with live music by Paul LaQuintano and the Zeiger Family, dog agility and flyball demonstrations, a pie competition and a flag retirement ceremony by VFW Post 7069 from Clarks Summit.
“We used to have a carnival, but that was over three decades ago,” Ross said. “We haven’t done anything this large in over 30 years.”
The inaugural fair was held to raise funds toward the purchase of a new pumper tanker for the Fleetville Volunteer Fire Company. Benton Township doesn’t have fire hydrants and the fire company was always in need of water sources or had to bring along a separate tanker to have water to fight fires. That required more members to fight fires and special training to drive the vehicles.
“The new pumper tanker is half pumper, half tanker. So now we can leave with one apparatus and report much faster to fires. It allows us to start right away,” Ross said.
For Varady, the cause became personal just a few months ago when she lost her home and pets in a fire. It was the house in which she was born. Chief Tony Saxton was one of the emergency responders who arrived to help deliver her.
“Dianna had a kitchen fire in June,” Green shared. “Her house burned to the ground. She is okay, but she lost all of her animals. Dianna was the one behind getting the signs up for the fair. I don’t know how she is so strong. She didn’t become angry and bitter because she lost everything. Instead, she became active in her community and is making a difference.”
Clarks Summit Fire Company partnered with the Fleetville Volunteer Fire Company and hosted a benefit for Varady.
“I think when something like this happens, you realize how much you need your fire department. You know they are there but you don’t realize the need for it or importance of it, until it happens to you,” Varady said.
“When the house was burning, all these companies and the local volunteers came to fight the fire and try to save something. We take that for granted. But if the volunteer fire companies don’t get funding and members, they can’t be there for the community like they want to be. It’s all volunteers. They aren’t being paid. If they go out on a call at one in the morning, it’s because they care about their community. They are selfless. That’s a nice quality in this day and age, because it seems like everything is so self-involved. Since the fire, it just gave me a different perspective on things.”
Spreading the word
Vanessa Canfield planned the junior fire fighter training activity. A little house used for the training at the fair was built and donated by Joe Thomas Construction. Canfield is an active member of the Fleetville Volunteer Fire Company and hoped that the event would attract interest from the community in signing up to be a volunteer firefighter.
“Everyone is busy and so stretched nowadays. But volunteer fire companies like ours are hurting for members,” Ross said. “If there is a lack of membership and you don’t have people who are willing to fight fires or there is lack of funds, fire companies can be in danger of shutting down. People don’t realize that if your local fire companies close, their insurance will go up. We think our fire company is vital to our community and we are simply getting the word out that we need their support.”
A beautiful success
The cross-community event had beautiful fall weather on its side and an estimated five to six thousand people attended. The chicken barbecue sold out, and Ross said they had to run out to buy more chicken. The chicken dinner featured rolls donated by Texas Roadhouse and a brand-new apple barbecue sauce from Booyah Burgers and Bites.
Everything was donated.
Ross shared that they exceeded the goal they had for the event.
“It was amazing how everybody came out to help us and show their support,” she said.
The Fleetville Fall Fair was sponsored in part by ECO Industrial/Northeast Penn Supplies, Joyce Electrical, Penn East Federal Credit Union and Joyce Carmody & Moran. Area residents, businesses and neighboring fire departments came from Clarks Summit, Dalton and Factoryville to support the Fleetville Volunteer Fire Company. Dedicated committee members got the word out, planned the details and worked to make the day a success. It all came together, making a big difference for one little fire company.
“I think that it shows that when everybody works together you can do anything,” Green said.