KETTLERSVILLE — Philip Buehler, of, as he says, “metropolitan Kettlersville,” went to the first fireman’s picnic there when he was 13.
That was 45 years ago and he didn’t miss one until last year, when he had to attend a wedding in Cleveland.
“We’re just slackers, I guess,” he laughed.
He’ll be at this year’s. The 46th annual Kettlersville Van Buren Township Fire Department Firemen’s Picnic will be Saturday, July 18, at the fire station, 8833 North St., from 3 p.m. to midnight.
It will be a lot like all the others, according to Chief Charlie Axe.
“(They haven’t changed) a whole lot,” he said.
Two new events this year will be a silent auction of items ranging from wood etchings to theater tickets to oil changes and a kids’ corn hole tournament.
“We used to have corn hole for adults, but that went by the wayside,” Axe said. There also used to be chicken races, with live chickens, years ago.
“But times have changed. People have changed. We can’t do that anymore,” Axe added.
What the local firefighters can do are games and events that remain popular year after year. Those include a cake wheel, which will begin at 3 p.m. and continue until there are no more cakes; 4-H booths; children’s games; an ice cream booth; free pony rides at 8 p.m.; bingo and other games for adults beginning at 6 p.m., a performance by the Inside Out Band at 6 p.m.; and a raffle for cash and other prizes at 11 p.m.
Raffle tickets will cost $5 each or five for $20. Ninety-three prizes, most of them cash, will go to lucky winners. The largest cash prize is $250; the smallest, $20. A total of $3,455 will be given away, along with pizzas, store gift certificates, golf balls, a case of oil, massages, an air vent inspection and dryer vent cleaning, and Cincinnati Reds tickets.
A hamburger stand will be open and beverages, including beer, will be available throughout the festival. But lots of people go for the chicken and it will be available until 500 meals sell out.
“It’s awesome chicken,” Axe said. Prepared by members of the Botkins Volunteer Fire Department according to their secret recipe, the chicken meals will cost $8 each and will comprise a half chicken, cole slaw, chips and a roll.
The Botkins firefighters and firefighters from the New Bremen squad assist with the picnic. In return, Kettlersville Van Buren Township squad members help with festivals in those villages.
While the chicken may be tasty, it’s the chance for camaraderie the draws most people to the fire station on picnic day, Axe said.
“It’s a community thing. Everybody comes out to socialize with neighbors,” he said. Buehler agreed.
“We always get to see a lot of people. Friends from way back are just about always there,” he said. “Come out,” he encouraged. “You’ve got the opportunity to have a good time.”
Axe, began attending the picnics as a child, but he has been with the fire department for the last 30 years. He noted that the biggest challenge is meeting pre-picnic deadlines: making sure the food items are ordered, the advertisements are out and the raffle tickets are printed on time.
The silent auction was added this year by the department’s ladies auxiliary in an attempt to raise more money for equipment. Axe said the goal is to make $15,000 during the picnic. The funds will be used to help pay for gas detectors, ice rescue suits, hose and a thermal imaging camera.
“The camera alone costs $10,000,” he noted. “I thank everyone for their continued support of the department.”
The event has always been the third Saturday of July and it goes on, rain or shine.
“We’ve had a lot of good times over the years,” Buehler said. “The beer’s always cold and the chicken’s always good.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.