Chester VFD marking 100th year

CHESTER – Just like in the old days, the Chester Volunteer Fire Department plans to hold a street fair later this month to celebrate its centennial year.

The Chester VFD 100th Anniversary Celebration is scheduled for June 24-28 on Fourth Street, between Carolina and Indiana avenues, Chief John Hissam said.

“We’re doing this as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to everybody for 100 years,” Hissam said. “We just thought it’d be kind of a neat way to celebrate our 100th anniversary – to have an old-time festival like we used to.”

Hissam said the fire department used to close off Fourth Street every year and hold a community event. In 1983, after 40 years, the practice was discontinued, he said.

The Chester VFD traces its origins to 1914, when charter members gathered for a meeting in January.

“The first fire department piece of equipment was a hose cart kept in a garage on Fairview Road,” according to the department’s website:

The department then bought an alert system for $75.71. The system, which operated on dry cell batteries at a time before electricity, consisted of a series of wire cables strung from the fire station to the senior officers’ homes.

“A ‘buzzer’ was then sounded to their homes when there was a fire call,” the website said. “The fire chief expressed a need to be able to alert all firefighters of a call, and so a large bell was approved for purchase to be kept outside the station and manually tapped when there was a fire.”

The fledgling fire department faced a blaze of historic proportions only a year later when fire broke out on the “Old Mill” ride at Rock Springs Park, killing four children.

Today, the modern, all-volunteer department has 17 members and is known for its annual Fall Bash, one of the most successful fire department fundraisers in the state. The 2013 Fall Bash raised an estimated $400,000.

It is Fall Bash proceeds that will pay for much of the 100th Anniversary Celebration, Hissam said.

The street fair will run from 5-11 p.m. June 24-27 and 1-11 p.m. June 28.

The event will close on June 28 with a parade at 5 p.m. and a fireworks show at 10 p.m. Lineup for the parade will begin at 3 p.m. at First Street.

There will be children’s rides, old-style games, food vendors, craft booths and live music nightly. The entertainment schedule is as follows:

Tuesday and Wednesday – Open Mic Night.

Thursday – 7% Superstar.

Friday – Uptown Saturday Night.

Saturday – Mad River Men.

The stage will be set up in the parking lot, and bingo will be offered in the truck bay.

The rides will be provided by Deshler Amusements Inc., of Wellsville. Ride wristbands will be $10.

To register for Open Mic Night or as a vendor, call the fire department at 304-387-1690 and leave a message.

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