What is it about those lawn parties that draw us to the neon lights like a mindless moth ready to shell out our precious greenbacks for raffle tickets, fried foods and that wonderful barbecue chicken?
Maybe it's because there aren't many other things left these days as wholesome as that slice of Americana that dots our volunteer fire and rescue squad landscape during the summer months.
Go ahead, try to explain to one of your highfalutin', city-slicker pals what a lawn party is and we guarantee you they'll "get it" about as much as a college kid "gets" the fact that they need eight hours of sleep a night. (Hint: Neither ever will.)
And aside from the money (and we'll get to the green in a second), that's what hit us right in the gut about Timberville Volunteer Fire Department's announcement earlier this month. The department, rightfully so, decided to cancel this year's lawn party. We're going to miss the food, the people, the fun, the atmosphere. But, these are strange times and with state gathering restrictions looming over our heads to help stem the COVID-19 spread, who knows when it's going to be deemed safe to gather in bunches.
The optimist in us says no more departments are going to cancel. The realist-slash-pessimist in us whispers in our other ear that more are to follow. That's going to become a problem because volunteer departments depend on those fundraisers to keep the gas tanks full, the equipment in tip-top shape and, by extension of all that, keep us safe in our little towns and enclaves.
"There is a real concern about cash flow," said Rockingham County Fire and Rescue Chief Jeremy Holloway. "Right now they are OK, but not doing fundraising efforts put a strain on them."
We know, we know. During these past months (yes, it's only been months, despite how long it feels) we've asked for a lot in this spot. We asked for more tips for your restaurant workers, delivery drivers and the like. We've asked you to skip the convenience of the big-box world and shop local.
How about one more? Send a check to your volunteer fire department and rescue squad, buy up as many raffle tickets as you can afford.
Yeah, we'll miss the food and camaraderie this summer. Let's make sure our volunteer departments don't miss the money, though. Then, turn back out in droves when the lawn parties return.
Feel free to bring your city pals, too.