Organizers of Fire Fest 2002 are gearing up for an event they hope will be bigger than ever.
Representatives from the Rotary Club of Columbia County, Columbia County Fire Chiefs Association and many local emergency service agencies have well-laid plans for the event that is still two months away.
"We are so excited. It is going to be bigger and better than ever," said Pauline Lasher, marketing and promotion director for the event and Rotary Club member.
The festival will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 12 in the open field and parking lots behind the Evans Kroger on Washington Road.
All involved agree the goal for the event is to educate children about fire safety. Plus, it is a day of fun for everybody involved.
"Anytime we get a chance to work with the young folks, we love to do so," said Doug Cooper, Martinez Fire Department chief. "We have had several documented cases where children have actually saved families right here in Columbia County due to fire safety techniques that we have taught them."
For the first time, Augusta fire chief Al Gillespie is involved in the fast-growing event as support.
"I am here to learn, more than anything else," he said. "I am here just to get a feel for it. This is Columbia County's and Chief Cooper's event. I do not want to step on any toes. We are only here to support them."
Last year's festival raised $25,829. Most of the money went to the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation. Money raised this year will be split among the participating fire departments, rotary charities and the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital.
Many of the same activities and displays that made last year's so successful will be returning to Fire Fest including the firefighter muster competition, Martinez and Grovetown fire safety houses, fire trucks, hot air balloons, carnival rides and lots of fun demonstrations like the K-9 unit.
Some new additions for this year's even include a display from Fort Discovery, a petting zoo and Fort Gordon's rock band, Code Red. There will be guest appearances by Smokey the Bear and Comcast's "Hey, Arnold."
Also, there is a special demonstration still in the planning, to be announced later, Lasher said.
The event has lots of new sponsors this year including Atlanta Gas, Proctor & Gamble, Y.M.C.A., Fort Discovery and Wal-Mart. Their support helps make the festival free for families, Lasher said.
"It is the only festival in town for children, and adults, that is free, where they can come all day, have a wonderful time with all kinds of shows and prizes ad handouts," Lasher said. "Yes, there is food for sale and rides for a token. But a woman can go pack a lunch and have a great day an still get a lot of free stuff."
Lasher expects the festival will draw about 5,000 people.
"It is becoming Columbia County's big festival that they can brag about," she said.
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