Kempner holds inaugural Pickett Festival, raises funds for fire department
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The city of Kempner held the inaugural Celebrate Kempner-Pickett Festival Saturday afternoon at Sylvia Tucker Memorial Park on Highway 190.
Dr. Keith Harvey, who was sworn in as mayor of Kempner on May 28, said that the idea for the festival came to him earlier this year and that he wanted to bring the community together.
“I wanted to use the park, I wanted to bring vendors, I wanted the community to come out and have fun, food and fellowship one with another,” Harvey said. “I wanted to do that before I was mayor, and I had it on the calendar, and I just pushed it to a summer month so we that could really enjoy you know, the great outdoors, in a nutshell.”
For its first year, the festival saw a great turnout and even people from neighboring communities, Harvey said.
“The response has been amazing,” Harvey said. “Even if it were five people, to me it’s still a success, but it’s not so-it’s a lot of people here.”
All proceeds from the festival will be going to the Kempner Volunteer Fire Department, according to Harvey.
“It’s just something that I decided to do from upfront,” he said. “I’ve been in this community almost 23 years, and the biggest thing has always been the fire department, underfunded but yet [they] still have that great demand to go out and do what they do.”
Harvey said he believed that the festival would raise enough money to really help the volunteer fire department.
“That stuff is very expensive, so if we can help them in their training, then amen, because we all benefit from it,” Harvey said.
Vendors at the festival included Cleaton’s 4E Farms, Ava’s Slimy Creations, JAK Creations, DotDotSmile consultant Gladis Maxwell, D.J. Farms Farm Fresh Produce, John Kirwan Leatherworks, Kona Ice, Amerigroup RealSolutions, Humana, Paparazzi jewelry, Pampered Chef, SnoGood, Bandit’s BBQ and The Bavarian Armadillo. Cen-Tex Saddle Club offered baked goods for a donation and pony rides around the park for $5.
Festivalgoers could purchase tickets to use at different booths and activities, such as bounce houses, big glove boxing, sumo wrestling, a chance to dunk either the mayor, KVFD Chief Dan Hause or KVFD Lt. Todd Burkett.
Burkett said he loved the dunking.
“I’m staying cool this way,” he said. “I like seeing the expression on the kids’ faces and the parents’ too, of course, so it’s all in fun. It’s what we’re here for is to have fun and enjoy the community as well, as they enjoy getting to see what we do.”
Hause said that he thought the festival was a good idea and was impressed by the turnout.
“I think it brings the community together and instead of having to go to other towns to go to their events, you have one here,” Hause said. “It’s up to Kempner whether they’re going to continue with this, and I hope they do because I think it’s a good idea.”
The Kempner Volunteer Fire Department started officially in 1972 and has grown to now have 33 volunteers making up the firefighting and support team.
The Kempner Volunteer Fire Department has two fire stations that house a total of two engines, five brush trucks, two booster trucks, two tenders, and two support vehicles. Station 1 is located at 315 Pecan Rd and Station 2 is located at 5084 FM 2808. The Kempner VFD protection area covers 126 square miles and includes approximately 10,500 citizens, according to their Facebook page. The all-volunteer department is supported through a minimal operating budget provided by Lampasas County but relies heavily on the generosity of the surrounding community to cover equipment replacement, upgrades and repairs.
With the proceeds from the festival, the volunteer fire department will be able to buy more equipment and gear, according to Hause.
“It’s very expensive to be a fire department, very very expensive,” Hause said. “Anytime you buy anything the price almost triples.”
The cost for a full set of gear can be as much as $3,000 per firefighter, and each piece of gear has a life expectancy of about 10 years, so the department is constantly having to rotate out expired gear and make sure everything is safe to use. The equipment used to fight fires is also constantly aging and needs to be repaired. Hause said the money will be greatly appreciated and will go towards repairing equipment or purchasing more gear.
Hause said that the Kempner Volunteer Fire Department is accepting volunteer applications, which can be submitted through volfire.com. They are also accepting donations of bottled water, sunscreen, snacks and more which can be dropped off at Station 1, at 315 Pecan Rd, near the Kempner Post Office.