Dane Firefighters Festival

Parade spectators get cooled off during the 2016 Dane Firefighters Festival. 

Long before “locavore” and “foodie” were trendy words, the Dane Firefighters Festival encapsulated both.

From Thursday, June 22-Sunday, June 25, at Bert Deans Park, 120 Railroad St. in Dane, the festival will continue its long tradition of serving bites like burgers, brats and slow-roasted pork. But the meal that tops it all off, in the opinion of Dane Fire Department Lieutenant Sara Grade, is the tantalizingly-tender chicken served on Sunday.

“Guys in the department, they start at 5 o’clock in the morning roasting chicken on an open pit,” Grade said. “…I think that’s a big draw that’s underutilized: We’ve got this awesome food that these guys spent a lot of time on.”

The chicken dinners, with meat from Waunakee, are served Sunday starting at noon.

And for every day of the 58th annual Thursday-Sunday festival, firefighters and their family and friends flip burgers, brats and hotdogs on the grill (starting at 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday).

The burgers, brats and hot dogs also come from UW Provisions.

“We’re a small town, so we try to buy local and stay local,” Grade said.

Of course, the annual festival goes beyond food. The four-day extravaganza is both a community event and a way to raise funds for equipment in the department.

“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Grade said.

Sunday has become Family Fun Day. There’s a noon parade down Main Street, where Grade said 13 local departments have been invited to bring their trucks. The kid’s area has face painting, games, water balloon fights. And the department also recently revived an old-school game, where kids are invited to hunt for quarters in a sawdust pile.

Local singer Susan Frankland, a Dane resident, will also perform.

“The Family Fun Day is something that we started last year that has gone over fantastic,” Grade said. “That is to get families on Sunday when they come and eat chicken -- to have their lunch and then they can let their kids loose while they have a beer or watch softball.”

The annual men’s softball tournament begins Thursday and goes through the weekend, typically ending Sunday afternoon – though Grade said particularly contentious tournaments have stretched until the evening.

Each day, the festival has a beer tent, and Friday and Saturday feature late-night music.

Sound Solutions Mobile Disc Jockeys, run by a Dane native, performs on Friday night. Then country group Back Country Roads performs on Saturday.

For late revelers, sober rides home are available.

“We try to keep it family-oriented,” Grade said, “but also adult-oriented in the later hours.”

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