Time for some relish: Annual Fireman’s Carnival opens today in Front Royal

Hoss Feldhauser, a life member of the Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, eats some of the department's 460 gallons of firemen's relish that will be available for sale at the Front Royal Fireman’s Carnival that opens today at Bing Crosby Park. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Front Royal Fireman’s Carnival opens its 90th year today with a parade, rides, food and its famous condiment –  fireman’s relish.

There are 22 barrels containing 460 gallons of the  event’s  spicy relish available to sell this year.  Although there is no written record of when the first batch was made, it was created sometime in the early 1950s by Front Royal police officer Skillet Henry, Sheriff Gary Keyser and Public Works Director Hugh Williams.

While the carnival is celebrating its ninth decade, 2018 marks another special anniversary – it is the 50th year Hoss Feldhauser, a Front Royal Fire Department life member, has helped organize the event.

After all of those years, Feldhauser, 67, said he has not grown tired of the fireman’s relish.

Ingredients in this year’s batch include 1,500 pounds of onion, 1,500 pounds of cabbage, 15 gallons of mustard, 7 pounds of cayenne and an abundance of black pepper, vinegar, salt and horseradish.

“I’m not tired of it,: Feldhauser said. “I don’t eat that much during the year. I usually bring a pint home, put it in the refrigerator. I look forward to it, people look forward to it every carnival.”

He said the relish is not only a favorite of locals, but that it has gained national notoriety and has been shipped as far away as Texas.

What makes the condiment so delectable?

Feldhauser said the mustard-based relish has “got a little kick in it” upon the first bite, which is followed by an “after-burn” courtesy of the cayenne and horseradish.

“Be sure to come down early and get you a pint of relish, as we have run out towards the end of the carnival over the past few years,” he said.

While Feldhauser said organizing the carnival is hard work, it is also a lot of fun. Relish aside, he said his favorite aspect of the carnival is that “you get to meet people that you don’t get to see pretty much all year.” He said he also enjoys the camaraderie of working with other volunteers to make the carnival happen.

He said attractions this year include 16 rides, a mechanical bull, games and plenty of food. The annual fireworks display, which he noted is the only free show in town, is slated for about 10 p.m. July 19. The annual parade will begin at 5 p.m. today at Stonewall Drive and travel down Commerce Avenue to the carnival grounds at Bing Crosby Stadium.

There will also be bingo every night, which bingo chair Michelle Smeltzer said in a news release is a “great way to spend some quality time to sit under the fans and play a couple of bingo games, maybe finish off your supper…while socializing with family and friends.”

Feldhauser noted the carnival’s importance as one of the department’s largest fundraisers. Though he said he is not sure how much it makes, the carnival “will set the tone” for the next budget.

The carnival will be held through July 21 in the area across from Bing Crosby Stadium. Doors will open for food at 5 p.m. while the rides will start at 6 p.m. There is no admission price, but there is a fee for the rides.