It was the early 1930s in the midst of the Great Depression when the first Cottage Grove Firemen’s Festival was held. Today marks the beginning of the 88th annual event.
“It has something for everybody,” said Erik Severson, coordinator of the 2019 festival, which will be held today through Sunday at Fireman’s Park.
There’s a new band playing Friday night, a new carnival company, a bean bag toss tournament and the return of fireworks.
“The bean bag tournament will be held Saturday after the parade,” Severson said. “We’d like people to sign up in advance through our Facebook page.”
The tourney replaces the smoked rib event held the past couple years. Severson said there was too much confusion surrounding the judging and sampling.
“We had people making ribs only for judging, but when people bought tickets to sample ribs, they thought they could try them all,” Severson said. “We listened to what the community said, and we’ve made changes.”
Another change is hiring A & C Wenzel Amazements as the carnival vendor, replacing longtime carnival company Calkins Midways.
“Looking at Wenzel’s safety record, she’s had no safety violations, which shows she cares about her employees,” Severson said. “It’s going to be a good fit.”
Ann and Harley Wenzel started in the business in 1972 when they bought a flying coaster that they booked with several carnivals throughout the Midwest. In 1982, they started their own company. Today, daughters Corina, Alison and Liz have lead roles in the company.
Fireworks will return Saturday night. The festival committee stopped the fireworks a couple years ago due to the cost. This year, private donations will fund the show.
Pacific Coast Highway is the new Friday night band and will perform classic rock music. Madison County returns Saturday night.
Between 75 and 90 entries are typical for the Saturday parade, which will line up at Cottage Grove School and proceed south on Main Street to an area just past the 1855 Saloon and Grill.
“Just about every church and business in Cottage Grove is in the parade,” Severson said. “The people with the Planters (Nutmobile) and the Oscar Mayer Wienermbile called to be in the parade this year, and they’ll be around later handing out samples and letting people take photos.”
Proceeds from this year’s event will be used to purchase new vehicle extraction equipment.
“We want to get the battery-operated equipment to replace our current one that uses hydraulic fluid from a pump,” Severson said. “It’s about $10,000 per piece of equipment, and we want to get a complete set of five pieces, so we need about $50,000.”
As always, the financial success of the festival is dependent on weather. Severson said a really good year would raise the $50,000, but it might also take two years to raise the total needed.
“We put on a really good show, and people come down to have fun but also to support us,” Severson said.