SWEET VALLEY — Members of the Sweet Valley Volunteer Fire Company are gearing up once again for the annual Sweet Valley Fair, a Memorial Day weekend tradition for many.
John Oley, 42, of Sweet Valley said the fair has been going on for about 60 years, including a brief break organizers took in the 1960s. Oley has been a member of the Sweet Valley Volunteer Fire Company for 27 years, including a role as assistant chief for the past seven years and leader of the annual Sweet Valley Fair for most of the past decade.
“It is our main fundraiser for the year,” he said of the alcohol-free, pet-free event.
Oley said the fire department has approximately 30 active members, and funds raised from the fair help offset costs for equipment purchases, training, insurance and more for the company, which responds to about 200 calls each year.
The fair offers free live entertainment each night and a full schedule. Things kick off Friday with Pop Rox and continue with the Tommy Guns Band on Saturday, 3rd Degree on Sunday and Iron Cowboy wrapping up the fair on Monday.
The event also offers kiddie rides, and wristband specials will be offered on Friday night and from 3-6 p.m. on Monday, Memorial Day.
A highlight of the annual fair is Monday’s Firemen’s Olympics. Oley said four- to six-man teams from local fire companies compete in two main events — the bucket brigade and the hand water pump — where competitors work to fill a 55-gallon drum first.
“We have an 1847 hand pumper that still pumps,” Oley said.
If you’re in the mood for good food but don’t want to fire up the grill, the Sweet Valley Fair offers plenty for your palate. Everything from potato pancakes, hamburgers and kielbasa sandwiches to deep-fried Oreos, funnel cake and ice cream is on the menu thanks to a number of volunteers.
“It’s all fire-department members or local church members that volunteer,” Oley said. “We get a lot of help from our local churches. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
While the fair’s primary function is to aid the fire department, it’s a great way to reconnect with friends and neighbors.
“I enjoy seeing old friends,” Oley said. “That’s the thing. You come out and see friends that you haven’t seen all year at the fair. People that have moved away come back to visit family and come to the fair.”
The Sweet Valley Fair is open from 5:30 to 10 tonight, 4:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday. Families can enjoy fireworks Saturday night and the annual parade on Memorial Day.
Festivities take place on the fire-company grounds at 5383 Main Road, Sweet Valley. For more information, call (570) 477-5121.
Oley encouraged residents to support local fire companies — not just the one in Sweet Valley — any way that they can.
“If you see your local fire company having a dinner, stop down and buy one. If they’re having a bazaar, go down and grab a sandwich and a soda,” he said. “Every dollar counts to all of us.”