Mammoth Lakes Fire Department (MLFD) has canceled its annual canoe race fundraiser, which was scheduled for Saturday, July 26 at Horseshoe Lake. The annual Fireman’s BBQ and Picnic will still occur on Sunday, July 27, from 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. at Shady Rest Park.
“For a lot of different reasons we decided to go back to how it used to be,” MLFD engineer Michael Payne said. “The first fundraiser was actually just a picnic in 1971.”
Payne said there is disagreement within the Department about when the canoe races began—some say 1973 some say 1975, although there is no documentation to back up either date. Regardless of when they actually started, Payne said, “You hear some of the guys retired from the Department say this was one of the big events over the summer and everyone came out.
“We’re dealing with some backlash,” he added of the cancellation. “People say you aren’t committed, but we really are. It just feels like it isn’t a community event. That’s really what we want, a more community-orientated event. So we’re going to take it back to where it started and try and rebuild it.”
Payne attributed the cancellation to the increase in summer events in Mammoth, several ongoing trainings at MLFD, and the water level at Horseshoe Lake. “We don’t want to burn everyone out. The canoe race really takes a lot of work and we don’t get a lot of local people to come to it,” he said. “People from other [fire] departments come up and support us. But we really want to get back into the community.”
That’s the goal of the Fireman’s BBQ and Picnic on Sunday. Payne said there will be new games and free hot dogs and sodas for kids under 12, as well as food, beer, and T shirts for sale. All proceeds go to the Mammoth Lakes Firefighters Foundation, which has a mission of “promoting and supporting fire education, a safe fire community, and volunteerism in the fire service within the town of Mammoth Lakes.”
Payne said the Foundation gives scholarships to graduating high school students going into the medical or fire service fields, and hands out fire prevention education materials every Halloween. The Foundation also takes requests and partners with other causes.
“We haven’t ruled [the canoe races] out for next year,” he said. “We’re going to see how things go and see how the community reacts to it. Maybe people will tell us we screwed up, and we’ll do the canoe races again next year.”