Chester VFD readies for annual Fall Bash
CHESTER– A large raffle in West Virginia will be held Sept. 20 and 21 at Mountaineer Casino, and is put on by the Chester Volunteer Fire Department.
Started 19 years ago, the Chester Fall Bash is a fundraiser for the Chester Volunteer Fire Department. All the funds raised through the raffle go to the department’s budget. As a volunteer department, they are responsible for financing their own budget.
“The way it helps the fire department is we have the ability to go out and do whatever we choose to do for equipment, we don’t have to look at the cheapest or the lowest priced stuff,” said Chester Fire Chief John Hissam. “We try to buy what we think the town and the area needs to operate with.”
The department is assisted by a number of community organizations during the bash including sports teams and clubs from Oak Glen High School, Oak Glen Middle School and Allison Elementary. In a show of gratitude for the assistance the fire department donates between $30,000- 40,000 back to the community each year. The department also finances community projects like last year’s addition of the music pavilion in the city park.
“They’ve been putting it on for 19 years, and they contribute to the community. The Fall Bash lets them do that and they are a major institution to the city.” said Chester Mayor Ken Morris, “We can always depend on the fire department to help the city.”
There will be approximately 500 raffle drawings during the two day bash, with drawings every five minutes. The prizes include cash, cars, and trips among other items. The winners can opt out of a material prize and leave with the cash equivalent.
“We have a very good group of volunteers for those days and everybody pays attention to their job, and we watch everything closely on those days, and it’s worked out real well for us,” said Hissam. “We couldn’t do it without first, without the customers buying the tickets, second without the volunteers helping us, and third without our own dedication to the organization.”
The Fall Bash takes 11 months to plan. Hissam estimates there will be between 12,000 and 15,000 people attending the bash. Tickets are sold across the United States and in eight foreign countries. Tickets go on sale in March. It takes about seven months to sell the 40,000 tickets. As of the end of August, only a few hundred tickets remain. Hissam said they sell out every year and he does not expect this year to be the exception.
“The fire department’s name is on everything we do. So everything we do reflects back on the department and we try to make it a very comfortable, very smart and good looking day so that the department does not come out with a bad reputation. The only thing we do have is our reputation and our name, and that we do try to handle that as best as we possibly can. No matter what we’re doing, whether it’s the bash or the Fourth of July, or something else, we do the best we can to make sure that the fire department’s name is what comes out ahead of everything.”
The department pays Mountaineer Casino, to use them as the location of the event and also buys all the prizes. There are also lawyers, bookkeepers and accountants involved in the planning process to ensure the bash runs smoothly and with no legal or accounting issues.
“The community bends over backwards to help us, on selling tickets and getting involved in the different things that we do and we greatly appreciate that. The City of Chester, the people of Chester, the business of Chester all get involved in everything that we do. And it shows that we’ve been able to make this work and make it go with them, it’s a real community group,” Hissam said.