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Firemen Survive Mother Nature's Menace

Mother Nature slapped around the Wyalusing Firemen's Celebration during its five-day run last week, raining on just about everything but their parade. But considering the potential effects of two hurricanes/tropical storms tearing up the coast—Bonnie and Charley—it didn't turn out to be such a bad week after all.

"I think we'll have the profit there this year," said Tom Miller, treasurer of the Wyalusing Valley Volunteer Fire Company, of the organization's chief fund-raiser, which prides itself on being the largest event of its kind in the region.

The best previous haul has been in the neighborhood of $106,000, and, as Miller notes, "$100,000 is always our goal." It looks like the gross receipts will be in the vicinity of $91,000 this year. The official numbers are traditionally announced later in the year, usually in November, during their Firemen's Appreciation Dinner. That's when they feed and entertain the hundreds of volunteers who pitch in to make each firemen's celebration a success and honor their top firefighters and volunteers.

Last year's celebration saw its Saturday event virtually washed out, including the profitable afternoon kiddie-ride matinee, by a major storm. They grossed $96,000 in 2003, but there are still reasons why that estimated $91,000 for 2004 doesn't look so bad. Miller says the overhead this year, those bills that pile up for various services and prizes, appear to be lower.

"I sold out of a lot of food," noted Miller, who has the chore of ordering all the comestibles, from chicken to clams, sold on the grounds and trying to anticipate the demand. They sold out some 3,000 halves of chicken, offering discount prices in the final couple hours of the carnival Saturday night for a clean sweep. Steamed clams were also sold out shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday. Other items that sold out were mozzarella sticks, French fries, wings and spiedies—the last two selling out before the end of the evening Friday.

"I would have to say we did very well considering," Miller said.

What he was considering were rainfalls, including a couple of drenchers on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights. Two storms came through on opening night, Tuesday—one at the beginning of the evening and the last one shortly before 9 o'clock. In the window between 7 and 8:30 p.m., a decent number of people came through and spent their money. Mother Nature smiled on the carnival on Wednesday night, when the 6:30 p.m. parade brings in big numbers—and probably the largest volume of children and families. Despite sections of the grounds being wet and muddy, the Wednesday night crowd was large, and they actually seemed to stay later than the typical Wednesday crowd. Sometime before 11 p.m., when most people had gone home, a wild rain and windstorm blasted through, threatening to tear out some of the tents serving as food and game booths. Thursday night was the wettest, with a steady rain falling on the grounds from sunset on. Fortunately, Thursday tends to be an off night at the carnival anyway, thanks to the parade the night before and the fireworks the night after—the carnival's two major attractions.

Friday night appeared to be blessed—for most of the night anyway—as the attendees on the grounds at Wyalusing Borough Park swelled steadily as the evening progressed in anticipation of the 10 p.m. fireworks display. The Wyalusing Swing Choir had just finished performing its second of three sets on the midway stage, shortly after 9 o'clock, when heavy rains came without the usual warning of rumbling thunder, lightning and spirited winds. The cloudburst seemed on the verge of flooding out the upcoming fireworks when the rain suddenly stopped. A half hour later the Swing Choir was singing "America the Beautiful" as the fireworks lit up the sky. An impressive number of people had stayed on to enjoy the evening's finale.

"In a way, the rain may have had something to do with selling some extra food," said Miller. He noted that the Friday night cloudburst drove people to the cover of food tents and to the pavilion where many ordered up chicken halves while waiting out the storm.

Through it all were the marshy, muddy portions of the field. That was partially remedied by bringing in wood chips to soak up the midway for the last couple of days and make the footing less adventurous.

That other big money-maker, the bull raffle drawing and its 14 donated prizes, capped the carnival Saturday night, with several hundred people sticking around to see if they won the $500 first prize donated by Taylor-Excel. That good fortune belonged to Wyalusing's Theresa Huffman.

Other prize winners were:

* 13-piece patio set donated by the Towanda-Wysox Sears Store—Dori Cook, Mehoopany RR 1;

* $250 gift certificate to Wyalusing Ace Hardware—David Gunther, Towanda;

* 20-inch color television— Betty Harris, Stevensville;

* $75 Carhartt Gift Certificate to be used at Ace Hardware—Doug Brown, Wyalusing RR 1;

* VCR/DVD player—David Neuber, Sugar Run RR 1;

* weed-eater—Jim Souto, Wyalusing;

* two-year subscription to The Rocket-Courier—Duane Borst, Towanda;

* $75 cash—Randy Kinner, New Albany;

* gas grill—Dale Bouch, Laceyville;

* 12-gallon wet/dry vacuum—Brad Dyer, Towanda;

* $50 cash—Richard Neiley, Hollenback;

* cordless phone—Donna Burgess, Tunkhannock, and

* plush bull—Nancy Conner, Wyalusing RR 1.

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