Answering the Call: Community Help For North East Fire Services With Outpouring During Adapted Cherry Fest
This would have been a banner 75th year for the North East Cherry Fest. Covid-19 concerns canceled the event, forcing the two fire departments that benefit, to get creative.
The Cherry Fest is the only fundraiser for fire services in that Erie County community.
Mike Wilkinson, a member of North East's Fuller Hose Fire Company since 1976 says funds from the fest help pay for the insurance of both buildings, both trucks, all the equipment we use for cherry festival, all the equipment inside each building. it's a very very large bill. Wilkinson says just the insurance bill alone for both departments, is $40,000.
And he would know.
He's the finance chair of the cherry fest.
David Meehl is the Chief of North East Fire, both the Fuller Hose and Crescent Hose Fire Companies. He is also the the cherry fest co-chair.
He says the usual planning starts at the beginning of every year , starting up contracts, lining up vendors, lining up all the food licenses, the gambling licenses, and getting everything locked up that makes the cherry festival what it is.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, Meehl and other fest organizers were talking weekly with Erie County Health Department officials about how to still have a fest.
So, a drive-thru event was held. It ran five days, starting July 14.
Rusty Wheel Concessions allowed the fest operate with the concession company's food license.
That was a big help to bring in what turned out to be big money.
Meehl says with the support of the community buying food, cherry pies and purchasing raffle tickets, nearly $100,000 was raised.
That will cover the insurance costs for the year, some training, and more.
With calls going up over the past few years at almost 1500 annually, funds to continue operating are important.
Wilkinson says, "The community has been, I don't know how to put it. More than generous."