Fireman’s Carnival boasts attractions for everyone

Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department’s annual carnival and festivities mean nights full of fun for kids and an opportunity to snatch up a rare fire department favorite for adults.

The Fireman’s Carnival began Wednesday and has run every evening except Sunday from 3 to 11 p.m. at the 8th Street carnival lot next to Bing Crosby Stadium.

Come June, the fire department whips up a whopping 500-gallon batch of its famous mustard-based cabbage and onion relish, which is sold out by the time the 10-day festival ends. Attendees will buy in bulk to hoard up for next year and distribute to friends and family. According to department life member Ronald Feldhauser, who’s seen 47 years of carnivals, the relish gets hotter the longer it sits.

This is the third year relish-themed T-shirts are available for sale, now with this year’s fan-submitted slogan of “Fireman’s Relish: Keeping Hot Dogs From Going Naked since 1940.” New 22-ounce plastic mugs are also available this year.

Other attractions include nightly bingo games and 22 rides for all types of thrill seekers.

The mile-long parade will start at 6 p.m. Wednesday at East Stonewall Drive, proceeding north along Commerce Avenue and ending at the carnival lot at around 7. Parade chairman Todd Lupton said he expects anywhere from 100 to 150 entries in the parade, from antique fire trucks to sports leagues.

Parade units will receive judgment for awards in around 25 different categories, and the awards will be announced at the fairgrounds at 9 p.m. A new addition to the parade this year is a float for the children and grandchildren of firefighters.

Front Royal police have announced parking restrictions and detours to accommodate the parade. According to a news release, parking will be restricted on the north side of East Stonewall Drive beginning at 2:30 p.m. and Commerce Avenue will be closed between North Royal Avenue and South Street starting at 4:30 p.m.

Dusk on Thursday will herald a fireworks show viewable from the fairground. The carnival will run through Saturday.

Lupton said the hardest part of the carnival is finding enough volunteers to staff the event. In years past, the carnival has lost many activities and attractions to a small staff. But unlike other small town firefighters’  carnivals that have gone under, Front Royal boasts a unique commodity that brings people back to the festivities every year.

While proceeds from the relish sales help to fund the Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, Lupton said that community visibility during the carnival itself is rewarding.

“A sense of small town community, coming together to support their local fire department is truly the essence of importance of the event,” he said.

For Feldhauser, the carnival is simply a chance to enjoy good food and good company.

“It is a lot of fun for me; I see people at the carnival that I don’t see but once a year,” he said.