Harvest Food Outreach, others benefit from successful Firefighters Fair

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The annual Indian River County Firefighters Fair may be over but its affect is sure to be felt in the community long after.

Harvest Food Outreach Center and other non-profit organizations will be the beneficiaries of the fair once the bills have been paid. The center received nearly 2,000 pounds of nonperishable food items it plans to use for its emergency food boxes.

“That’s a huge financial sacrifice,” said Harvest Food Outreach Center’s Vicki Hoyos, of the partnership with the Firefighters Fair. In exchange for the donated boxed or canned good, fair-goers received $3 off their $20 midway tickets – a sacrifice of about $6,000 if each donated item weighed one pound, which most weighed far less.

This was the first year the Firefighters Fair made such an offer and partnership with a non-profit group.

Fair General Manager Toby Turner said because of the economy the organizers decided to find a way to not only provide a discount on ride tickets to visitors but also help a group that helps families.

“We were blown away,” Hoyos said of the outpouring Harvest Food Outreach Center received, both in terms of support from the fair organizers as well as the community’s donations.

“It’s wonderful for us to put into our emergency food boxes,” she said of the boxed and canned goods. Each food box the center provides holds 30 balanced meals that provide food security to families that otherwise might not have enough to eat.

The Firefighters Fair also held two days promoting Treasure Coast Community Health as a sponsor by providing highly visible signage, Turner said.

Hoyos said that she would like to see the fair and the center partner again next year. Turner said that just might happen.

He explained that he doesn’t see why the fair couldn’t partner with an organization like the Harvest Food Outreach Center next year. Whether it would be the same organization or another remains unknown.

“We might choose to spread the wealth,” Turner said of taking turns selecting organizations.

This year’s fair drew an estimated 43,000 paid fair-goers, between advanced ticket sales and regular.

On the opening Saturday, more than 7,000 people turned out, making up for the lost time Friday, when organizers had to cancel the fair due to inclement weather.

“In general, it went very well,” Turner said of the 10-day fair. “We try to please everyone.”

This was the first year for the new layout to the fairgrounds, which Turner said seemed to work well in keeping the crowds happy, including an outdoor food court complete with tent and chairs.

“It was a big hit,” he said.

The Demolition Derby, which was rescheduled after being rained out on what was supposed to be opening day Friday, had 30 participants and drew a large crowd of spectators, Turner said.

The Canning and Creative Craft competition also went well and is expected to return again next year.

“Those are always excellent,” Turner said.

The Karaoke competition was also a major draw and the Barn Dance following had the place jumping, according to Turner.

The one thing not expected to return next year is bingo. This year, as last, saw about 20 people participate, Turner said, which is not enough to justify the expense of the bingo machine or the cards.

Turner said he hopes to have more volunteers next year to help keep the fair going smoothly.

“It takes a lot of work to put it on,” he said. “It’s all volunteers.”

Teens seeking community service hours to log for scholarship requirements are welcome to help, Turner said, as is anyone else who wants to pitch in.

Anyone wanting to learn more about the annual Indian River County Firefighters Fair or how to volunteer next year can visit www.FirefightersFair.org or contact General Manager Toby Turner by e-mailing turner9443@bellsouth.net.

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