Picnic Beats The Heat

NEW BREMEN — Scores of residents braved temperatures of more than 90 degrees Saturday as they turned out for an event that benefited a local fire department.

The 90th annual New Bremen Fireman’s Picnic took center stage at the Crown Pavilion and offered visitors a slew of activities and events. From corn hole and wiffel ball tournaments to chain saw carvings, pony rides and music, the annual fundraiser for the New Bremen/German Township Fire Department had something for everyone.

“It gives something for everyone to come out for,” firefighter Jeff Utz told The Evening Leader. “It’s a smaller-scaled festival, it’s obviously been going on for 90 years. It’s something smaller, not quite as large as Bremenfest, but it offers a little bit more of a hometown feel. It seems to be a little smaller crowd, but we try to extend it to the other communities.”

The festival is among the primary fundraisers for the fire department. Proceeds allow for the purchase of safety equipment that can save lives.

“We were able to add a new rescue saw for our equipment truck,” Utz said. “It’s an all-purpose saw that we use for ventilation. We use a lot of the funds to fund activities throughout the year as well as purchasing equipment. A couple of years ago we purchased new flashlights that mount to our helmets.”

Planning for the festival is a 12 month job, Utz noted.

“We have been planning this since last year’s picnic finished,” Utz said. “We started with some small things and we’ve been meeting since January. It is a long process and we do put all of our efforts into this and we try to make sure everything runs smoothly.

New to the festival this year was Tim Kuenning and his chain saw carvings. For years, Kuenning has supported the department by creating carvings that were auctioned during Bremenfest. However this year he joined the lineup for the fireman’s picnic.

“We’ve added that to our festival because all the proceeds came to us and we, and he likewise, felt we should showcase that at our picnic,” Utz said.

One event absent from the festival was the waterball tournament. Organizers were forced to cancel the popular event because the village is under a water usage advisory.

“We usually have waterball here today,” Utz said. “We think that has brought down the attendance a little bit throughout the afternoon. We offer that to the kids every year and it’s a big attraction. They get to put the fire helmets on and it gives them a little sense of what it’s like to hold a fire hose.”

Kuenning’s tent was a popular spot at the picnic as visitors got the chance to watch him create carvings. Kuenning said he has been doing it for years.

“My dad was a fireman and we’ve donated to them for years,” Kuenning told The Evening Leader. “All the proceeds from the auction that they will have will go to the fire department. Everything we cut here goes into the auction and that all goes to the fire department because everyone benefits from the fire department.”

On Saturday afternoon, Kuenning was putting the finishing touches on an eagle. The carvings, he noted, can take anywhere from hours to weeks to complete.

“It depends on the size,” Kuenning said. “A chain saw isn’t a precision instrument.”

When he carves, Kuenning does not use a stencil or outline. He simply “sees” the pattern in the wood.

“I can’t draw — I can visualize,” Kuenning said. “I saw the bird in the log.”