This July will mark the 44th and final year of Mountaintop Hose Company’s annual bazaar, an event where locals had congregated for food, games, and camaraderie, attending as children and then returning with children of their own.
“It’s been a very hard decision for all of us, there’s no question about that,” related David Hourigan of ending the bazaar. Hourigan is the hose company president and he’s chaired the bazaar every year since 1983. “Running it just became too exhausting and it wasn’t fun anymore,” he said.
A core group of volunteers organized, prepped, and staffed the annual bazaar for many years. Each are heartbroken that this year is the last and the decision was not made lightly. Much thought and consideration went into it as the group faced the truth that the challenges and difficulties of running the bazaar outweighed its benefits.
Sadly, lack of volunteers, attendees, and the decline of profitability were the main factors in ending the bazaar. “Attendance isn’t what it was 20 years ago,” Hourigan explained. “There were years when you couldn’t see the ground, there’d be so many people there. Now we get a nice, friendly crowd, but nothing like it was.”
Pete Kohl, chief of the hose company for 40 years, expressed his sadness in ending the bazaar. In earlier years, he said, “Not only was it a fundraiser, but it was a big part of getting our members together. There was camaraderie, everyone worked together to help out and there was more of a sense of pride in what we were doing then. It was more than just putting on a bazaar.”
“It’s hard to see it go,” related Tim McGinnis, a volunteer of the bazaar and a member of the hose company. “I grew up there. I grew up going to it.”
Having handled the food operations at the bazaar for many years, McGinnis described how, in past years, the sale of food and beverages has failed to bring in the profit that it once did. Slightly raising the prices of food each year, yet still having lower prices than other area bazaars, hasn’t helped, he said, but has just brought complaints from the public.
The small-town bazaar is a dying concept, McGinnis went on. Church bazaars may continue, as churches have regular weekly attendees, but the community fire bazaar is becoming more and more rare.
“Bazaars are dying everywhere and it’s a sad thing,” remarked Shawn Prohaska, another longtime hose company volunteer. “There’s so many people around here, but so few are willing to donate their time. I don’t know what’s changed in society, but you just can’t get people to work anymore.”
Each member of the hose company noted that the connection they see in both the unwillingness for bazaar volunteers and of the public to volunteer for fire service altogether. Fewer and fewer are joining local fire departments, making it difficult for their survival.
“Nobody really wants to step up,” Kohl said. “We’ve tried impress upon people over the years that it’s not just about being a firefighter. A lot more goes into being a member, into the operation of it.” Volunteers are not just needed to be firemen, he stressed, but also for the day-to-day operations of the hose company.
In the last 30 years, the number of volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania has dropped from 300,000 to 50,000, stated Hourigan. He questioned the future of local fire companies in years to come as older firemen retire and fewer young firemen join the departments.
The impact on the hose company financially could be significant, as 35 percent of its budget came from the bazaar’s profits. “It’s going to be very difficult to run the hose company without those funds,” said Kohl.
The fire department is completely dependent on fundraisers and donations to operate. Prohaska explained that this is something many don’t understand. Some residents believe that the fire department is tax
See Bazaar page 4