October 23, 2021

Cooking up a fundraiser

Without Winterfest pancakes, firefighters serve up barbecue

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Homer firefighter Michael Keegan cooks Saturday during the Homer Fire Department’s chicken barbecue fundraiser. The fundraiser was held in place of the department’s annual pancake breakfast that occurs during Homer’s Winterfest.

For years, Homer’s Winterfest would draw crowds from all around Cortland County and beyond, including the Homer Fire Department’s pancake breakfast.

“The pancake breakfast is one of the biggest fundraisers for the department,” Capt. Chad Wakula said Saturday.

Because the breakfast — and Winterfest — had been canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Homer Fire Department has been looking for other ways to raise funds for equipment.

On Saturday, that meant a chicken barbecue run by the department’s Hose Company No. 2, where people could pull up to the department’s Main Street station and order chicken halves from their car.

One of the events the pancake breakfast would help fund in the past was the department’s Field Days, said Homer Fire Chief Mahlon Irish. The event, usually the first weekend of June, would feature carnival rides, games, food and music.

“It’s kind of a community thing,” Irish said.

Irish said he hopes COVID restrictions ease by then so the event can resume this year after being canceled last year.

“We’re hoping by spring and summer, we can get back to our field days and other things we missed last year,” he said. “We really need people to get out and enjoy those things. Hopefully 2021 will be better.”

Village residents who came and bought chicken — nearly a quarter of the 300 chickens were sold in the first 15 minutes, said firefighter Michael Keegan — were happy to support the department nonetheless.

“Chicken is always fabulous, so the fact they’re doing it in the middle of winter, in a pandemic, is just that much better,” said Maria Arnold. She came after her sister reminded her Saturday morning that it was taking place and gave her money to buy some chicken.

She also said she didn’t mind that it was chicken instead of pancakes.

“I prefer chicken so it’s a bonus for me,” she said.

Bev Berry of Homer said she was meeting with friends at a nearby church when she saw the firefighters setting up the grill and tent.

“I like that it’s local,” she said.

The department may host more barbecues because it’s one of the few safe fundraising options available, Wakula said. “We’ll see how it goes.”