Every March, people and organizations alike prepare for St. Patrick’s Day. There is an explosion of green as “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” merchandise and corn beef and cabbage lines store shelves and decorates bars. The members of the Highland Fire Department, however, lay the groundwork for their Annual Dinner Dance fundraiser.
The funds from the dance are used to help purchase any equipment the department may need. This year will mark the 100th annual dance, making the dance a monumental tradition for both the fire department and the citizens of Highland.
The first dance was held as a ball on Dec. 16, 1916 at Turner Hall here in Highland, beginning as a way to help pay the firemen for their service to the community.
“They didn’t get paid unless they were the first one to the firehouse to get the horse drawn pumper,” said Tony Winter, a fourth-generation firefighter.
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Five years from the first dance, it became a masked ball and continued through to the late 1980s. According to Winter, prizes would be given out for the various costumes worn to the ball.
“The dance was changed to a chicken and beer dance around five years ago,” Winter said.
With the evolution of the dance, so came the shift of how the profits were spent.
“The fire department started using the profits to purchase equipment for the department after the city started to pay the (firefighters) for being on the department.”
This year, the fire department plans to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) equipment and water rescue wet suits. SCBA is the pack the firemen wear into fires that allows them to breath in fresh air. The water rescue wetsuits will allow the department to perform ice and water rescues out on the lake. Because firefighters fight fires for hours at a time, the funds will also be used buy refreshments to keep the firefighters hydrated when they are fighting large fires.
The Highland firefighters have been hard at work revamping their pre-dance, advertising and starting fundraising campaign to set this dance apart from previous years. They have added donation levels, which they hope will help boost their profits.
“We have bronze, silver and gold levels,” Winter said. “If you donate at least $100, you are a bronze sponsor, $500 is silver, and $1,000 is gold. That is to say you can’t donate anything. Donations are up to what the donors want to give.”
Leveled sponsors will also receive a commemorative T-shirt with their names on the back, in addition to receiving tickets to the dance.
There will also be plenty of entertainment to enjoy as well. Baywolfe, a local cover band, will be the featured music guest. There will also be plenty of raffles to participate in and a silent auction, too.
“The auction items range from signed sports memorabilia, such as signed Cardinals pictures, baseballs and jerseys,” says Winter. “We also have gift cards and gift certificates ranging from haircuts to dinners to oil changes.”
As this dance will be the 100th dance, the fire department wishes to make this event a memorable one.
“(We want) to make it memorable and hope that it will be a dance that everyone will want to come to, even if they don’t dance,” Winter said. “So that they can get together with friends and family and have fun — a dance that the department will be proud to put on.”
Where: Highland Knights of Columbus Hall, 1254 Illinois Route 143
When: Saturday, March 19
Doors open: 6 p.m.
Dinner: Fried chicken, plates and utensils will be provided. You are welcome to bring side dishes. Cash bar.
Other activities: Raffles, door prizes, silent auction
Cost: $20 per person/$30 per couple in advance or $25 per person/$40 per couple at the door
To purchase tickets: Advance tickets are available at Oberbeck Grain Co., E-Mix and JW Insurance. You can also call Chris at (618) 304-7574 or Jay at (618) 781-6360 or email email@example.com.