CHESTER - The Chester Volunteer Fire Department's annual Fall Bash went off without a hitch Saturday, and organizers say it was the most successful one thus far.
"This event means everything to us. Without this event, we wouldn't be hardly able to do anything or get the equipment we use," fire department Chief John Hissam said.
The chief added that he believes the community knows how important the Fall Bash really is.
The crowd at The Harv at Mountaineer waits for the next winning number during Saturday’s Fall Bash. The event generates roughly 95 percent of the Chester Volunteer Fire Department’s annual income. (Photo by Michael D. McElwain)
Held at The Harv at Mountaineer, a total of 10,000 tickets, which went on sale in March and cost $100 each, sold out early.
Roughly 95 percent of the department's income comes from the Fall Bash, Hissam noted. Some of the other revenue comes from the state, county and city.
More than $650,000 in prizes were awarded at the bash Saturday, including rifles and other weapons, and several vehicles. There were Suzuki Kingquads, Harley Davidson motorcycles, vehicles by Lexus, BMW, GMC, Volvo, Acura, Porsche and Land Rover.
In all prize drawings, winners also have the option to take a cash prize instead.
Several other drawings, including a 50/50 raffle, are held during the main prize drawing event.
Hissam said folks from all over the country buy tickets. Several winners announced Saturday were from the area, which also makes Hissam happy.
"It's good that people in the area who can see how the department benefits from the Fall Bash can also win some of the prizes," Hissam noted.
Since the Fall Bash began, firefighters have raised enough money to renovate the fire station from top to bottom, Hissam said. They have replaced the system used to fill the firefighters' air tanks, and purchased new equipment and gear for each firefighter.
The new 75-foot aerial truck and a new pumper were purchased through Fall Bash proceeds.
Being adjacent to the Ohio River means firefighters also train in river rescue. The department has been able to purchase the hovercraft and new flat-bottomed boats that can be linked together like a river rescue flotilla.
"The event has been a godsend for this department and to the people of Chester and the surrounding areas," Hissam said. "Without the help of the community selling tickets and helping to organize and work the event, it would never happen."
Local organizations like booster clubs and other groups go around selling special drawing tickets and raffle tickets. Each group gets a monetary donation from the proceeds, so the event helps more than just the Chester Volunteer Fire Department.
It takes a lot of preparation, and Hissam said that during its November meeting, the firefighters and other organizers will start planning for the 2011 Fall Bash.
For the first time since its start, some significant changes may come in 2011.
"We are very, very close to having it be a two-day event or having a second event," Hissam said. "If we can get the final few details worked out, it will go."
Hissam said the department will likely purchase a new heavy rescue vehicle from this year's Fall Bash revenue. The vehicle can cost as much as $170,000 depending on how it's equipped.
If the citizens of Chester want to see the improvements to the fire station - inside and out - they are welcome to stop down and take a look, Hissam said.