One of the biggest parades in this area will kick off the Oldenburg Firemen's Festival Saturday, June 29, at 1 p.m., reports Tom Nobbe, Eagle Fire Co. of Oldenburg chief.
The fundraiser is being downsized from two days, says fest chairman Abe Koehne. "We've eliminated Friday" due to a smaller turnout and fewer firefighters able to work at the fest.
Last summer the procession had 72 entries. The 2019 parade theme is "Heroes Among Us." Parade coordinator and company secretary Willie Ronnebaum says, "I would like to see more military (floats or vehicles) and possibly – I know it's hard during the summer – the local school bands. We always have a good turnout of the sports teams."
Floats can feature music and people throwing candy. "It's always hot" so water balloons may be tossed at spectators, too. "We want everybody to have fun."
Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. A sign-up table will be set up at the corner of Water and Werner streets.
The procession will follow the traditional route: west on Water Street, north on State Road 229, through the convent grounds and south on Pearl Street past the firehouse, where it ends. Plaques will be presented to the winners in seven categories: fire apparatus, float, classic vehicle, farm equipment, sport, equestrian and oddity.
"There will be a lot of activities for the kids," according to Ronnebaum. For a new challenge, firefighters have built a minigolf course. In addition, "we'll have five bounce houses and four inflatable games set up for the kids in the stone church yard," says Koehne.
Smaller tykes will enjoy three games – a sucker pull, pick and win (every envelope has a prize) and duck pond.
A huge turnout is expected for the 4 p.m. kiddie tractor pull led by Charlie Israel in front of the firehouse along Pearl Street. Trophies will be presented to winners in several age categories.
No one will go hungry with a vast selection of nonstop food that will be served up even before the parade.
A lunch stand will boast hamburgers, hot dogs, breaded tenderloins, french fries and soft drinks in the parking lot south of the firehouse between 11 a.m.-9 p.m., reports Eagle Fire Co. board President Greg Ronnebaum, Willie's cousin. "The breaded tenderloins are just the top. We bread them ourselves," she says.
In that same lot, vendors will be selling carnival food – nuts, funnel cakes, cheesecake on a stick, soft pretzels and three kinds of soft serve ice cream – pineapple, vanilla and chocolate.
A carryout fried chicken tent will be open from noon-8 p.m. overseen by the chief's son, firefighter Travis Nobbe. "Everybody likes the chicken," smiles Tom Nobbe, who has been fighting fires for 37 years. Willie Ronnebaum points out in addition to selling whole and half chickens, hard-to-find livers and gizzards will be available.
Behind the firehouse from 2-8 p.m., fest-goers may relax and chow down on fried chicken and roast beef dinners that include mashed potatoes, cole slaw, applesauce, green beans, desserts and drinks. Donated desserts are needed and may be dropped off at the fire station Saturday morning.
A beer garden starts at noon and shuts down at midnight in the shelter behind the firehouse, according to Nobbe. Tickets will be sold until 11 p.m. Choices include Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Miller Light and Coors Light, plus beer-based Lime-A-Ritas and more flavors.
The Renegades, who offer classic rock and country tunes, are back by popular demand from 8 p.m.-midnight, the chief says. The crowd pleasers "bring a lot of people with them."
Over 80 prizes ranging from items to gift cards donated by Oldenburg and Batesville businesses can be won in the Barrel of Fun Raffle. The $1,000 grand prize, drawn at 10 p.m., was donated by the department. Persons may buy raffle tickets costing $1 each or six for $5 ahead of time from firefighters or at a fest booth. Purchasers do not need to be present to win.
Pull tabs will be another adult amusement.
Proceeds will go for operating expenses, according to the chief. Equipment must be continually updated. "Truck valves need to be replaced and there's always new hoses" to buy. Chain saws, used for storm cleanup and to clear away brush to get to vehicles after crashes, are 15-20 years old.
In addition, a set of firefighting gear costs $2,200. Every year a certain number are purchased instead of one large expense.
Koehne observes that when people spend money at the fest, "they're pretty much buying their gear to save their house."
Area folks should plan on attending the event "to support your local fire department." Greg Ronnebaum points out, "Nobody thinks about the fire department until they dial 911."
The fest "keeps that tradition of coming to Oldenburg," Willie Ronnebaum says. "It's such a neat town, fun in a safe environment. Families are always welcome."
It's a two-way street between firefighters and residents. "We're always there for them," she notes. "We truly appreciate everybody's support, whether it's donations or participating in all the fundraisers throughout the year."
Debbie Blank can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.
More firefighters and first responders needed
"Volunteers are getting hard to come by," according to Greg Ronnebaum.
The chief reports the company has 18 firefighters, including five first responders. Two retired firefighters help out at the fest.
"I have probably one of the youngest groups of firefighters. They all are super. They're trained well. We do regular training once a month and then meet once a month," plus three squads take turns arriving at the fire station every third Sunday between 8 a.m.-noon to check out equipment.
Prospective firefighters may call 812-934-5856.