July 6, 2010
Cincy field days are long days
Volunteers are the key to the success of the annual event
CINCINNATUS — Dean Catlin found a way to escape from the heat, both literal and figurative, of the Cincinnatus Field Days at mid-afternoon Saturday.
The three-day event’s co-chair stayed in the cool garage at the town ambulance service for about an hour, eating lunch and preparing trophies for Saturday evening’s parade. His escape was cut short when a field days volunteer drove up in a golf cart and told him that the tractor-pull drivers were unhappy with the course where they would compete and wanted it wetted down.
“I’m the fixer,” Catlin said before he rode back to the Cincinnatus Fire Department’s 18.5-acre land along Route 26, where the field days were taking place. “I’m the guy with all the answers, I guess.”
The field days, a part of life July 4 weekend in the valley along the Cortland and Chenango county line for at least 50 years, ended Sunday with fireworks. The three days featured the parade, which attracted hundreds of people to its route through Cincinnatus; races between people driving all-terrain vehicles, lawn mowers (called Grasscar Motorsports), snowmobiles and tractors; carnival rides, musical entertainment and food vendors; a Guitar Hero competition for teenagers, where they played a computerized guitar, trying to match a rock musician’s performance; and assorted information tents, a dunking booth to benefit high school sports and a reptile exhibit by Dan Chase of Marathon.
The American Legion held a flag burning ceremony Saturday, following the traditional method for retiring an American flag that is damaged or worn out.
The event attracted thousands of people before it was done and was managed by just 20 to 25 people, said Catlin and co-chair Shawn Scoville. They are divided into 10 committees: parade, fireworks, entertainment and electrical supply. They planned to rest Monday and then begin cleanup today, said Catlin, who has volunteered to manage the field days for 11 years and has been a co-chair for 10.
The volunteer staff will begin planning next year’s field days now, meeting once a month and then once a week in June.
Jim Parker was the third co-chair. Catlin’s wife, Mary, chairs some parts of the field days, such as the parade.
The volunteers use vacation time and work 15-hour days.
“I left here are 1 a.m. and was back at 6 a.m.,” Catlin said.
Scoville said his day Friday was similar, as he had worked from 7 a.m. until 11:45 p.m. He said it has become harder in recent years to stage traditional firefighters’ field days, for any fire department.
“Both the husband and wife in a family tend to work now, and it’s harder to get time off,” he said. “So it’s not the expense or the insurance, it’s the manpower.”
“A lot of good people pull this together,” said Thomas Mulhern, 18, a Cincinnatus firefighter and emergency medical technician who recently passed the state exam to become a medic. “Mr. Catlin runs a tight ship. He communicates with all the clubs (with tents) and vendors.”
Mulhern said his family brought him to the field days when he was a boy, growing up in Taylor, and he was excited to help manage it now.
In his case, that meant sitting or standing in the sun, inside the race course during the lawn mower races, waiting to help with emergencies as the dust swirled around him and stuck to his skin. Mulhern and junior firefighter Devan Bellefleur, 14, were there, with firefighting gear ready, to put out any engine fires and assist medic Mellisa Rice.
A rider rolled his lawnmower at one point right in front of Bellefleur, who ran over to see if he needed help, with Mulhern and Rice right behind him.
Volunteers perform multiple duties. Mulhern said he helped out at the first aid tent and with grounds control, and with lining up racers in the snowmobile drag races Friday evening. Bellefluer said he had helped pull up or hammer in stakes around the course.
Rice had helped at the barbecue chicken pit, where dozens of chickens at a time were turned on spits, to be sold by the fire department.
Scoville said insurance was not a high cost for the event, as ride operators had their own insurance and the fire department was covered by a blanket policy taken out by the fire district. He and Catlin did not know the amount.
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