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March 18, 2016 - 1:24pm

No rides, no Mustang raffle for this year's Onion Festival in Elba

posted by Billie Owens in elba, Onion Festival, news.

Lean times may lie ahead for the Elba Fire Department. It's biggest fundraiser of the year -- the Elba Onion Festival -- will not feature rides this year, nor will there be a raffle for a shiny new Ford Mustang.

Whatever other money-making options might be employed for the all-volunteer fire company will be discussed at its next meeting in two weeks. But the Onion Festival will still take place in mid-August, just as it has for the past 79 years. 

The decision not to have rides is actually the result of not being able to secure a company to provide them, said Elba Fire Department President Ken Miller.

"It comes down to money," he said. "The ride companies don't want to go to small-town events. Ours is just Friday and Saturday. After they get insurance and pay wages, there's not enough money in it for them."

Miller said the trend is hurting fundraising efforts for small, volunteer fire companies -- two or three in Monroe County have cancelled fundraisers featuring rides this year.

For at least the last 50 years, Elba has raffled off a car at the Onion Festival. They only sell tickets in Genesee County.

Elba not having a Mustang raffle in 2016 is the result of a trickle-down effect: No rides, fewer people, not enough money to buy the car.

It has nothing to do with Stafford Volunteer Fire Company, which had this year's Corvette raffle suspended by the State Gaming Commission because it had online raffle tickets ads posted last year in violation of the rules. (Refunds are being issued to Stafford raffle ticket buyers.)

Proceeds from the Onion Festival help pay for Elba's fire equipment and supplies.

"It hurts," Miller said. "It's a huge community deal. People come from all over. It's like a big family picnic. But things change."

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Steve Hawley is co-sponsoring two bills which would allow charitable organizations holding raffles to accept checks and credit cards and to allow them to advertise raffle tickets online, thereby boosting sales and reaching more people. Hawley said he will also be introducing a constitutional amendment to allow nonprofit organizations more latitude in their fundraising efforts.

George Richardson
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Last seen: 6 years 3 months ago
Joined: Jun 6 2012 - 9:18pm

Can they have Chuck a Luck, Rat in the Hole, Texas Hold 'em, Blackjack and other types of illegal gambling like they do at St. Joe's Lawn Fete? Just triple the beer tent size, bring the Craps tables and Eight liners and the party goes on. And of course, Onion rings for everybody.

George Richardson
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Last seen: 6 years 3 months ago
Joined: Jun 6 2012 - 9:18pm

"It comes down to money," he said. "The ride companies don't want to go to small-town events. Ours is just Friday and Saturday. After they get insurance and pay wages, there's not enough money in it for them."

A couple of greased palms could easily make this problem go away. Make them an offer they will gladly accept. Bring the Carnival or "No more Onions for you."

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