BEACON FALLS — They come for the food.
Lobsters, clams, corn on the cob, loaded baked potatoes, fried dough, hot dogs, hamburgers, fresh-cut french fries, pulled pork and steak sandwiches, and fried Oreo cookies.
The eats are a major draw to the annual Firemen’s Carnival sponsored by the Beacon Hose Company No. 1, said Jeremy Rodorigo, Beacon Hose spokesman.
“Aside from fighting fires, this is what we’re good at — cooking food,” Rodorigo said.
The carnival at the North Main Street firehouse kicked off Thursday night and continues tonight and Saturday. It opens at 6 p.m. each night, and closes tonight at 11 and at midnight Saturday. Its annual parade, which features 30-plus fire company and rescue units across the state, will start the festivities on Saturday.
With rides looming in the back and on the sides of the firehouse, set up earlier in the week by Marenna Amusements, the company’s cooking equipment stood quietly Thursday morning, waiting for volunteers to fire them up. Tents shielded flat-top grills, char-broil grills, deep fryers and a custom-built lobster cooker from the bright sun. Inside, volunteers will stretch out the dough and make fresh-cut fries.
The volunteers will pick their familiar cooking posts, having become experts at preparing that particular food, said Rodorigo, who handles the lobsters.
Beacon Hose buys the live lobsters every day, and typically will go through 300 to 500 lobsters during the three evenings combined, he said.
Shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday, the sounds, sights, and smells of a carnival wafted through the downtown Beacon Falls air as the annual event opened up for another year. The lines at the ticket booth formed quickly, the deep fryers were turned on, and children eagerly jumped onto rides.
Aside from being a fun-filled weekend, the carnival is the company’s largest fundraiser.
The company has about 100 members, with 50 or 60 who volunteer for the carnival, Rodorigo said. The carnival raises about $15,000 to $20,000 depending on the weather, he said.
A sprinkle of rain threatened to dampen opening night of the carnival Thursday, but the rain held off.
The carnival dates back to the 1960s. Its parade attracts thousands who then attend the carnival, Rodorigo said. He said people who have been here before, from in town or out of town, tend to come back every year to see those people they haven’t seen since last year’s carnival.
“It’s like a reunion every year,” Rodorigo said.
Sean Cloney, who is in charge of the carnival for a second year, said the carnival has several new offerings this year — the pulled pork sandwiches, frozen margaritas and piña coladas, Long Trail ale on tap and three live bands, The New Originals performed Thursday, Jimmy Hat is slated for Friday and Driven on Saturday.
“If the weather is good, we are set to have a good event,” Cloney said.
See more photos from the carnival here.