'A long-time tradition': Winsted Fire Department prepares for carnival comeback

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

WINSTED — Growing up in town, Fire Chief James Lagassie has many memories of going on rides and playing games at the annual Firemen’s Carnival.

“It’s been a long-time tradition,” said Lagassie, 51. “It’s been going on as long as I can remember with the exception of last year, due to COVID-19.”

This year, the carnival will be Aug. 25-28 at the ball fields, 75 Rowley St., from 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; and Friday and Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m.

Admission is free. On Wednesday and Thursday nights there are “Wrist Band Nights,” with unlimited ride wrist bands available for $25. Additionally, individual sheets of tickets can be purchased on each night.

The carnival appeals to all ages, according to Lagassie.

There are about six rides, including a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round. There will also be games, bingo, blower ball, and music.

The food tent will include fried dough, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, onion rings and french fries. All the food is made by members of the Fire Department.

Raffle tickets will be available for purchase. “The top prizes are $2,000 with a local travel agency that can go towards a trip,” he said.

Additionally, there will be bingo, a beer garden, music by a local DJ on Friday and Saturday evening, and a dunk tank where participants can throw a ball at a target — who can be firefighters, politicians, or children.

There will be colorful firework displays Friday night at 9 p.m., with a rain date scheduled for Saturday.

To make up for the event being canceled last year, the fireworks display will be longer than in previous years.

“We decided we put more money into the fireworks. Typically our show is about 30 minutes long but we’re adding another 10 or 15 minutes to it. We want to make it more spectacular because we didn’t do it last year,” said Lagassie, who has been a firefighter since he was 16 — working in Winsted for 12 years and in Pleasant Valley, N.Y., before then.

Aside from him and one other position, the rest of the department is made up of volunteers.

Proceeds from the carnival go towards items Fire Department needs.

“We try to buy things we can’t get in the budget,” Lagassie said.

This includes the purchase of equipment such as thermal imaging cameras.

“They’re in each of our apparatus. It senses different temperatures,” he said. “When we go in a burning building, we can use it to find people. We find fires by seeing the heat in the wall. We can also use it to find dogs and cats.”

Additionally, the Fire Department has previously purchased brushfire equipment such as backpack leaf blowers; and a quad, which is a four wheel, two-person all terrain vehicle for use in the woods.

There will also be a firemen’s parade this year, which Lagassie said he remembers marching in as a teenager. He marched along with his father who was also a member of the department.

This year’s Firemen’s Parade begins Saturday at 6 p.m. Marchers travel the length of Main Street.

“Fire departments throughout the state come and line up,” Lagassie said. “Fire trucks and firemen march through town and end up at the carnival grounds.”

Over the course of the four nights, the event “draws thousands of people,” Lagassie said. “Friday and Saturday night are our busiest nights.”

Carnivals are becoming more scarce these days, according to Lagassie.

“There’s not a lot of carnivals around anymore,” he said. “Years ago, a lot of fire departments had parades and carnivals, and little by little, they fazed away. It’s a lot of work to put on these carnivals.”

For questions or concerns about possible rain, call 860-379-5155 or visit winstedfire.org.