Clarion event will say ‘thank you’ to firefighters

Back in April, the Clarion community in April was reeling from the loss of the 140-year-old Hahne building to fire.

Now, the community wants to thank firefighters for their efforts to save the structure, which housed longtime community staples Bob’s Subs and the Community Learning Workshop, along with several upstairs apartments.

The “thank you” gesture — a collaboration of Destination Clarion, The Hope Rising Church and the Clarion Area Chamber of Business & Industry — is taking shape in the form of an event scheduled from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 10.

“We all know when we had the fire downtown that it could have been a lot worse without the efforts of our firefighters, and this our way to say ‘thanks,’’ chamber Director Tracy Becker said. “It is only fitting we should come together and thank our first responders.”

Clarion Borough Council President Carol LaPinto said the event “is not a fundraiser” for the fire department, but an expression of gratitude.

“It will be a fun family day,” Hope Rising Church Pastor Henry Hoff said. “They will also be able to say ‘thanks’ to the true heroes of the community, our firefighters.”

Destination Clarion’s Jim Crooks said the idea “started out as a way to show our appreciation to the firemen. At the same time, Hope Rising was doing fundraising for their missions trip; so we combined our efforts.”

Hope Rising will sponsor a cornhole event with proceeds benefiting the church’s mission trip to Nicaragua. Pre-registration is at 9 a.m., with the tournament starting at 10:30 p.m.

“The funds that are raised are given to the fire department as a ‘thank-you,”’ Hoff said.

The Clarion Fire Department will bring its ladder truck to the event for a touch-a-truck opportunity for children, who are being encouraged to have their photo taken with a firefighter. A large American flag will hang over North Sixth Avenue, which will be closed during the event.

A 73-foot-long inflatable obstacle course will be available for the kids free of charge, courtesy of Hope Rising Church. Two people can race at the same time.

In addition to food trucks, several downtown restaurants will have outdoor dining during the event.

Michelle’s cafe will offer lemonade and sugar cookies and the County Seat will be serve up burgers. A vendor will cook kettle corn on Main Street.

An added bonus will be an appearance by the 501st Troopers from Star Wars. The Pittsburgh-based group has made personal appearances throughout the region, but this will be its first visit to Clarion.

There will be a 50/50 drawing, Chinese auction to benefit the fire department. Music will be piped into the area. A handbill is available that will allow supporters of the fire company to donate via the internet.

A window decal — “I support Clarion Fire Station 520” — will be available at various locations for a $5 donation.

“We decided that the money we raise will be given to the fire department to spend however they see fit,” Hoff said.

Clarion Fire Department President Mike Chesterfield said the department is “in a very good place compared to other fire departments in the area. It was reported that we need air packs. That is not true. We got new air packs three years ago through a grant. We do have bills to pay every month and a truck payment every month.”

However, Chesterfield said, the department is in need of new members, and that members of the ROTC program at PennWest-Clarion have volunteered. The department has 47 members on the roll and averages about 15 to 17 members turning out for every call.

“We are always recruiting,” Chesterfield said. “We don’t just open the door and take anyone off the street. We do background testing and drug testing to protect ourselves. We have raised our standards.”

At the end of the day a check will be presented to the fire department.

Businesses wishing to participate should contact Crooks. For more information, call (814) 297-8070.