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Local News

September 29, 2013

Empire firefighters host annual fundraiser

EMPIRE — Empire volunteer firefighters didn’t complain when rain came down all day Saturday while the Fire Department was having its annual fundraiser.

The fundraiser, which featured a car and motorcycle show and a brisket dinner, is one of the biggest sources of income for the Empire Volunteer Fire Department. Steve Earnhart, Empire firefighter and event organizer, said quite a few people didn’t turnout in spite of the rain.

“We can’t complain,” Earnhart said. “We need the rain so badly.”

Because of the rain, Earnhart figured the fundraiser might not prove to be a lucrative as years without precipitation. He said the car show portion had to have 40 cars to break-even and this year’s event had about 40 cars.

He said the turnout for the brisket dinner would determine the success of the fundraiser because it would show if there was a profit made from the event.

“We were banking on selling 500 meals this year,” Earnhart said. “We’ve got enough food for 650 people.”

The number of meals would also cover volunteers for the day and the department firefighters. He said the rain’s impact on the dinner turnout was unknown so far.

But if the history of the event proves anything, the number of meals sold has continued to grow. He said the weather mostly impacts the car and motorcycle portion of the fundraiser.

“Five of the seven years have been extremely hot,” Earnhart said. “The last two years, we’ve tried to grow it and it’s rained.”

To run the volunteer department, it takes about $40,000 a year. This money covers vehicle repairs and upgrades, operational expenses and various other expenses the department might accrue during the year.

Funding for the department comes from fundraising efforts, grants and a sales tax approved by Stephens County voters.

Graylen Shirley had a vehicle in Saturday’s car and motorcycle show. Shirley also participated in the event last year.

“I like to come out and support these people,” he said. “They do so much. If you didn’t have these people, this countryside would burn up.”

Shirley said the rain didn’t deter him from participating in the event because he knew the firefighters could use the funds. Since last year’s fundraiser, he sold the vehicle he had entered during the Stephens County Auto Swap Meet and started building his latest vehicle.

The funds from last year’s event went toward upgrading a donated water tanker. The tanker was donated by the Oklahoma Department of Defense, but funds were needed to make the vehicle usable.

Earnhart said some of this year’s funds could be used for a similar project.

“We’re looking at building another water tanker,” he said.

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