EDMORE — With its roots in potato farming, Edmore served up loads of potatoes — chips, fries, baked and topped with all the fixings — during last weekend’s Potato Festival. But tasty tubers were just a small part of the farming village’s offerings.
Activities began Friday night with the seventh annual Home Township Fire Department Appreciation gathering downtown. Great food, fun activities and absolutely perfect weather gave families a way to unwind. For some, it was merely a family outing. For others, it held special meaning of many sacrifices made by local firefighters and others whose eminence will be forever etched in history.
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Nearly 450 meals were served at the event, according to Home Township Fire Chief Randy Linton, one of the festival’s three grand marshals.
“With a dwindling economy, the money will be used to buy much needed equipment … equipment that may someday be used to help save lives and property,” said firefighter Chris Irwin of the fundraiser.
Brian and Jill Porter of Edmore attended with their family. Daughters, Josselyn, 6, and Brianne, 5, learned what to do during a mock fire in the safety house provided by Oakland Fire Department.
“There was smoke inside,” said Josselyn of her experience. “We learned to crawl low to get out, because smoke goes up.”
At dusk, a parade of marching firefighters and a fleet of nearly 40 units from neighboring municipalities were led down Main Street by three bagpipers as a tribute to fallen comrades and other victims of Sept. 11, 2001, and other recent tragedies.
Midway through the parade, Kevin Wheeler spoke of sacrifices of local and national firefighters and their families. He mentioned a Huston, TX restaurant collapse, the deadliest in the city’s 118-year firefighting history, and the June deaths of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite wildfire specialists in Arizona.
Wheeler conveyed the selfless effort of every firefighter by reading a prayer given by lone Hotshot survivor Brendan McDonough, “Be with my fellow crew members as we hike up to the top. Help us cut enough line for this blaze to stop. Let my skills and hands be firm and quick. Let me find those safety zones as we hit and lick. For if this day on the line I should answer death’s call, Lord, bless my Hotshot crew, my family, one and all.”
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Gale’s Gym’s 5K, 10K and kids’ run returned Saturday morning followed by the afternoon parade downtown. Grand marshal honorees Randy Linton, Tim Irwin and Edwin Adams, each who have served 40 years on the Home Township Fire Department, waived to parade spectators from high atop a fire truck. Linton recently announced plans to retire as fire chief.
Other Saturday activities included the popular Super Kicker Rodeo, which debuted last year and was sponsored by Randall’s Old Mill. Complementing the rodeo’s bull and bronc riding, calf roping and barrel racing was the Maxfield family-sponsored mechanical bull, on which amateur wranglers of all ages tested their riding skills. Kids enjoyed mutton busting, inflatable units and mobile gaming systems at Webb field (presented by Chemical Bank).
Edmore Chamber President and Potato Festival Chairman Rich Adgate hoped to have the rodeo on Webb Field, which would have allowed adequate seating after last year’s 850 rodeo spectators experienced crowding. But, he was denied due to concern about whether the football field bleachers were safe. The cost of a safety inspection outweighed necessity, he said.
Instead of using the football field for the rodeo, it took place on the property northeast of the field.
A trickle down effect of the bleacher situation resulted in the car show and business expo, which normally take place at Webb Field, to be excluded from this year’s schedule.
“We scaled back due to logistics and being denied approval of using the bleachers at Webb Field,” Adgate said. “It’s taken me five months to secure bleachers for the rodeo.”
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Adgate rented and purchased bleachers from Isabella County Fairground and chairs from Tony Maxfield to accommodate up to 1300 people. He estimates 1000 seats were filled Saturday night.
He thanked many community members for helping set up and said Clif Randall of Randall’s Old Mill went above and beyond to help prepare for the rodeo.
“Clif has been great,” said Adgate. “He’s stepped up and made a huge investment as title sponsor and donated countless hours of labor, including over $3,000 of his own money. People like him are what truly keep me going.”
Wrapping up events Sunday, was a hearty breakfast at the VFW, distribution of free school supplies, personal care items, haircuts and clothes at the Endeavor Center’s back-to-school extravaganza and music and ice cream at Curtis Pond supported by River Valley Credit Union.
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Adgate feels the Potato Festival brought people to town, which promoted local business.
“The chamber’s job is to help businesses,” he said. “I always say, ‘If town’s busier and retail business tills ring, the festival’s a success.’”
Correspondent Robin Miller is an Edmore resident.