Firefighters saving the next dance

POULSBO — Just because the Poulsbo Firefighters Association isn’t hosting its annual Firefighter’s Ball this year for the first time in nearly 70 years doesn’t mean the tradition has gone up in smoke.

The donations received from the event are generous enough but it’s the attendance, or rather, lack thereof, that bothers organizer Jerry Cooper.

The cost to put it on for the amount of people who show up just isn’t worth it anymore, said Poulsbo Fire Department’s Deputy Fire Marshall, who has been in charge of the dance for the past 35 years.

The attendance is “atrocious,” he added. Aside from the two dozen people he brings to the event himself, there are only about 20 people that show up each year.

“That’s not worth paying $1,500 for the band and food and the drinks,” he said. “I don’t think it’s worth paying that kind of money.”

The dance typically takes place the first Saturday in May and costs about $8,000 to host, he said. However, organizers only bring in $10,000, making a $2,000 profit. The event benefits the PFA, a volunteer organization that puts on various programs and helps purchase equipment for the department.

Cooper said another reason for taking a break is the number of events that are taking place these days, such as last weekend’s Poulsbo-North Kitsap Rotary Auction and next weekend’s department fund-raiser for fellow volunteer firefighter Ken Wickert, who is battling cancer.

With so many community pokers in the fire, Cooper felt it would be best to step back, take a break for a year and come back with something “bigger and better.”

At the 50th dance 19 years ago, about 1,000 people showed up and throughout the years, there were raffles for trips to Hawaii and free televisions. Now, Cooper finds himself being among the few who set up the party and returns to help clean up the next day. He noted that the district has 45 staff members and 40 volunteers.

Cooper said next year they may do a dinner, bring back the raffles, hold an auction but added that he is always looking for more suggestions. The event will be back next year, he assured.

“It’s just a tradition we will always do,” Cooper said. “It’s not going to die.”

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