If you’re traveling on Ritchie Highway during an early July evening, you’re bound to spot the Ferris wheel towering over the midway. You’re likely to smell the aroma of fried dough and powdered sugar. The Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company’s annual carnival, which returns this year from July 1 to July 10, is a tradition that dates back to 1945.
“One of the log books from Earleigh Heights company meetings [described how] they had the carnival for two weeks and then the church on Earleigh Heights Road borrowed the carnival stands, and the guys from the firehouse carried them to the church so they could have a carnival for a few days,” said Joe Angyelof, president of the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company. “It was a neighborhood thing.”
Many things have changed in the last seven decades, including the firehouse moving to its current location at the intersection of Ritchie Highway and Magothy Bridge Road. What hasn’t changed? The carnival remains family focused, delivering fun for all ages.
Run by Jolly Shows, the carnival has an array of entertainment. Adults and kids can glide or spin with high-intensity rides midair or they can enjoy the leisurely merry-go-round or super slide. Games include the duck pond, water race and hoop shoot. Guests can also stroll around the midway to sample the concessions: corn dogs, chicken fingers, pizza, ice cream, funnel cakes, cotton candy and popcorn.
“We’re having the snack wheel, our snowball stand, and we sell sodas and drinks to keep people hydrated,” said Andy Price, who has overseen the carnival for more than 20 years. “We’re one of the last firehouses to still do a beer garden, so come on out. We have a big-screen TV because you have the [Major League Baseball] All-Star game played and the Home Run Derby. So, parents who don’t want to walk around with their kids until their kids are big enough to walk around, they come back and sit and enjoy themselves. We have fans to keep them cool.”
Families can pay per ride or get a $30 bracelet to get access to all rides for the whole week. Carnival proceeds will help the firehouse purchase vehicles and equipment that keeps the community safe.
“A new squad truck is $1.2 million, and you have to outfit it with all the new tools, which aren’t cheap,” Price said. “We just ordered a new fire engine, and old ones were $300,000 or $400,000 when we bought them. Now you’re talking $800,000. That’s a lot for a piece of gear to go up and down the street, but we need it to take care of the community.”
The carnival will run every night from 6:00pm to 11:00pm except July 4.
“We want our families to enjoy the holiday with their family, so we are not operating on the Fourth of July,” Price said.