GRAFTON — After 81 years, the annual Grafton’s Village Firemen’s Festival is being extinguished.
The announcement was made via Facebook Wednesday night by the Grafton Village Fire Department.
“We would like to thank each and every person that made the last 81 years a success,” the notice said. “Though change is hard, it is also very exciting.”
Grafton Village Firemen’s Association President Joe Filipiak Jr. said there are many factors for why the festival has been canceled.
“It was a combination of factors including decreased attendance, resulting in decreased revenue, weather issues and the strain on our membership involved with running a multiday event,” Filipiak said.
The bottom line? Festivals are not as popular as they once were, he said.
“People have changed how they spend their free time, and this is reflected by attendance at some festivals across the region,” Filipiak said.
The annual festival had been in existence since 1936, with its sole purpose being to raise funds to support the operations and equipment purchases for the Grafton Fire Department.
Once the social media post went online, residents near and far began sharing their childhood stories of attending the yearly festival.
Grafton resident Jenn Jackson said the Firemen’s Festival was the one event that all Grafton children looked forward to every year.
“I remember the dunking booth as a kid, the rides and the smells that came along with the food,” she said Thursday. “It was packed full of people. It just won’t be the same. I’m heartbroken.”
The 51-year-old grandmother said she was looking forward to taking her grandchildren to this year’s event to show them what a small town can do to support its own.
“Guess that won’t happen now,” she said. “The community always came together at that event.”
Allison Ansel grew up in Eaton Township, but moved away for a few years before returning so her children could attend Midview Schools.
Carnival fries from the festival always trigger memories about her dad, she said.
“I’ll always remember before leaving the festival every year, we always had to bring home ‘carnival fries’ for my dad,” she said. “He would wait every year just for some fries. I went 30-plus years just to get him fries. He passed away this last December.”
In order to continue to provide funding for the department, plans for a steak fry are underway for the upcoming fall.
“The festival has been part of Grafton for decades,” Filipiak said. “It was a difficult decision to let it go, but as times change, we need to move forward as a department and fire association. As we leave one tradition behind, we look forward to replacing it with something different, which will benefit the people of Grafton as well as the Fire Department.”
To stay up to date on the fundraiser, follow the “Grafton Village Fire Department” Facebook page.