CRIDERSVILLE — Standing in front of the Cridersville Fire Department as the Saturday afternoon parade makes its way down Main Street, two sisters and their families applaud a fire truck as it drives by.
Afterall, they say, that’s what the Cridersville Firemen’s Jamboree is all about.
As the children pick up candy off the street, Melanie Reichelderfer and Megan Rumbaugh take in what they describe as one of the best parades around.
Melanie’s husband, Jeff Reichelderfer, serves as assistant chief of the department and the family all comes out to offer its support throughout the weekend.
“It’s a real community feeling,” Melanie Reichelderfer said. “It brings everyone together and is really family oriented.”
Turning to smile at her husband, she said, of course they love the firemen and their firetrucks, too.
Julie Watkins and her 3-year-old son Ayden, of Lima, were housesitting in Cridersville during the weekend and decided to visit the festival for the first time, starting with the parade and then heading to ride some rides.
Diana Walti, of Cridersville, said it’s a family tradition to attend the Jamboree.
“We like watching the parade and seeing what’s different each year, then going down to grab chicken dinners, walk around and play some games.
Her teenage daughter, Ciera Walti, enjoys listening to the music each night of the festival and as her mom says, flirting with the guys.
The family tradition continued this year as Natalie Sheipline brought her 1-year-old daughter, Avery, who loved riding the ponies and feeding carrots to the goats.
The Sheiplines joined Natalie’s grandma, Shirley Schlegel, who lives right outside of town, for the festival as they do every year.
“I come here to see the people and buy waffles,” Schlegel said.
Kristi Sullivan and her boyfriend, Steve Wood, had four children with them as they waited for Saturday afternoon’s parade to start. They were all looking forward to the convoy of police cruisers and fire trucks.
With Wood growing up in the village, Sullivan said they attend for him, but enjoy the food, rides and atmosphere of the small town festival.
“It’s something fun to go out and do,” said Sullivan, who expected they would be purchasing french fries, waffles, cotton candy and snow cones for everyone before the afternoon was over.
As firefighters from several other departments around the county also were in attendance, Mike Wenning, of Uniopolis, said its important for them to support each other.
Sunny weather added up to a terrific weekend for the festival, Cridersville Fire Chief Ron Mertz said.
“Attendance has been phenomenal,” said Mertz, noting that crowds had led to record attendance.
Part of the reason for that Mertz believed was outstanding entertainment, of course coupled with the great weather.
“We probably have some of the best entertainment in Auglaize County and it keeps getting better,” Mertz said.
He said planning for next year’s Jamboree is expected to start at the end of August and they are already talking about plans for the 50th Jamboree in three years.
“It’s great food, great entertainment and great people,” Mertz said of what the Jamboree is all about. “We’re already looking forward to next year. A greater time can’t be had in Auglaize County.”
He thanked the surrounding community for its support of the event, which serves as a fundraiser for the fire department but also as a way to give something back to the department’s service area. Proceeds this year are to go toward the purchase of new turnout gear for the department, which includes 43 firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
“We’ve grown from a little thing that started on a Sunday afternoon,” Mertz said, “to a busy weekend and who knows where we’ll go from here.”