This year, the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department is hosting their annual carnival from Sunday, July 24 through the night of Saturday the 30th, when a fireworks display is scheduled to cap off the 2016 festivities.
The KIVFD Firemen’s Carnival is important both as a fundraiser and community event.
The very first was held in August of 1947.
At Kent Island’s inaugural firemen’s carnival, a musical group called The Eastern Shore Playboys performed, and there was a presentation of a film that claimed to have been filmed in Technicolor of the South, whatever that may have been. Ground prizes included a radio, a caged canary, and a case of the laundry soap Rinso. A hog was the grand prize.
From the very beginning, the KIFVD’s carnival was a great success. The Queenstown News announced on September 1, 1947 that “thanks to the support of the entire county, the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department went over the top!”
The net proceeds reached an astounding total of $3,175.48.
In the early days, carnival entertainment was diverse from year to year.
Farmer Alvin ‘Babe’ Grollman once told me: “One time they had airplane rides, and I bought a winning ticket. We circled Kent Island/ Wheat piled in the fields for thrashing looked like sand piles. The people looked like ants. There weren’t many cars at all.”
Retired businessman Billy Denny said, “One time Jimmy Lane wrestled a bear, a great big black bear. Old bear beat him pretty good.”
Ray Baker, second generation KIVFD member whose father was a founder, organized many carnivals in the 1960s and 70s: “As the years, went on,” he said, “we learned the best way to have successful event was to get kids to come. After a while, I became entertainment chairman. I had a budget of $300. We’d have skydivers, Baltimore TV stars like Pete the Pirate, and big name ballplayers.”
That kind of entertainment is a thing of the past
There are constants through the generations, though:
Rides, games and concessions.
Good will and fellowship.
The cake wheel.
The KIVFD’s Firemen’s Carnival celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2007. Modern Kent Island carnivals generate tens of thousands of dollars in funds for the department, and continues to be one of the highlights of an Eastern Shore summer.
A HISTORY OF THE KENT ISLAND VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT is available on Amazon and locally at Stevensville Antiques, Baker’s Liquors, and the Easton News Center.
Photos courtesy of Will Clark, Sandra Early, Alison Harbaugh, Kent Island Heritage Society, KIVFD, Joyce Mooore & Stan Ruddie