Nearly every year since 1923, the Easton Volunteer Fire Company No.1 has held its carnival during the summer. This has been a family event, not only for the patrons, but for the volunteers who put it together and run it. It has not only been generational, but often included multiple members of the same household. Below is a condensed history of the event.
The very first Easton Volunteer Fire Company No.1 carnival took place on the 6th, 7th, & 8th of September 1923. The company didn’t yet own a fire truck, much less possess a firehouse. That first carnival was held at the Yellow Bowl Tea Room on the eastern side of Sport Hill Road. It was deemed a great success, clearing the recently formed volunteer company close to $1,000. Those funds were soon put to good use when the fire company purchased its first “fire truck”, an aging Oldsmobile roadster that had been converted into a chemical car with twin 35-gallon soda and acid tanks used to fight fires.
The 1925 carnival more than doubled the cash intake with over $2,000 in net revenue, and at the last minute, the event has held over for an additional day on Monday. The revenue from that year’s carnival was used to install a central heating system in the new firehouse.
By 1927, the event began on Saturday, July 16 and then continued Wednesday through Saturday the following week. By then the carnival was being held on Ed Tammany’s field across the street from the new firehouse on Sport Hill Road. Bingo was the main game of chance, with a candy wheel and blanket booth providing additional revenue. Food offerings consisted of hot dogs, soft drinks and ice cream.
In 1933, the Siren Aide Club was officially organized and with the help of the ladies, food sales soared at the carnival with the addition of freshly cooked dishes and desserts. During the Depression, the carnival became an important diversion for the residents of Easton, and it grew into a weeklong celebration that included events outside of the nightly games of chance. One of those new events was Donkey Baseball, where the players had to ride Donkey’s to round the bases.
In 1937, the fire company secured the ½ acre field for the carnival when it paid the Tammany family $3,000 to complete the purchase. After 13 years, the event then had a permanent venue.
Things went smoothly until new gaming laws enacted in the late 1940’s cast a doubt on the organization’s ability to continue offering games of chance. After a 1949 raid by the state police on Ridgefield’s carnival, the Easton volunteers decided to cancel their annual event, returning the new car to the dealer that they had been intent on raffling off as their largest prize.
After the state gaming laws were changed in the mid-1950’s, the carnival returned – bigger and better than ever. The 1960’s and 1970’s saw the addition of motorized rides and more booths full of prizes. The 1977 carnival had 4 rides – 2 for kids and 2 for adults. The bicycle booth remained popular, as did the candy wheel. The radio and television booth offered the chance to spin for a color television as its top attraction. There was even a Jersey cigarette wheel, where winners received cigarettes as prizes! The Siren Aides had over 150 frozen pies ready to bake fresh daily and serve each of the nights during the event. The carnival’s famous peach shortcake was served to over 75 hungry patrons every evening, and on Saturday night, some lucky ticket holder was awarded the top prize of a new Buick Century.
The 75th Anniversary book published by the fire company in 1996 noted that the 1989 carnival netted a record $65,000. Not bad for a group of volunteers working together to serve the community in which they lived.