Daytime work fuels evening fun at 65th Worthington carnival

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

Each evening during the Worthington-West Franklin Carnival, crowds gather for parades, rides and games in support of the volunteer fire department.

But a lot of activity happens hours earlier while the amusement rides sit quiet under the hot afternoon sun.

“We make doughnuts every day,” Debbie Hillegass said as she poured batter into a machine that dropped perfectly formed doughnuts into hot oil.

She has been a volunteer for the Worthington-West Franklin fire department for about 15 years and showed up at the line of outbuildings near the fire hall early Tuesday to help prepare food for concession stands.

She was among six or seven other women — all wearing aprons dusted with powdered sugar — who helped churn out about 150 dozen doughnuts for the day's sale.

From time to time during the late morning and early afternoon hours, residents and neighbors came by to lend a hand or buy a sandwich to help the fire department at its biggest fundraiser of the year.

Jeff Bowser, a dairy farmer from West Franklin, stopped in at lunchtime for a bite to eat and ended up unloading a delivery of mushrooms for the women to batter up and deep fry later in the day.

“I've been coming here since I was a kid,” Bowser said. “The firemen do a really good job.”

He planned to drive his John Deere tractor — pulling a hay-lined wagon carrying his wife and two children — into town that evening for the Farmers and Antique Car Parade.

Fire Chief Randy Bowser dropped by to see how the new doughnut machine was working and had only a few minutes to spare before the fire siren began to wail for a reported alarm activation.

“Hopefully, there'll be no rain tonight,” he said before he left.

Rides ground to a halt on the previous night shortly after the carnival's kick-off when lightning and heavy downpours moved across the area.

Helen Travis was busy making sandwiches for the lunch crowd when the fire chief left. She recalled a fire several decades ago which burned down Henry Shaffer Lumber in West Kittanning. The blaze coincided with that year's carnival during the Fireman's Parade.

“The parade was just starting when the trucks all pulled out. Everybody went — the whole parade went into town,” Travis said.

She said she helps with the carnival in honor of her uncle, Warren Grafton, who was a volunteer firefighter with the Worthington-West Franklin department for 60 years.

“It's nice to continue the trend,” she said. “ If we have a fire — these guys are the first ones there.”

Terry Smith, chairman of the carnival committee, said the Fireman's Parade is one of the biggest events of the 65-year-old carnival. This year's is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

“It seems to be that people come there to see their local fire departments,” he said, adding that there will be marching bands and close to 100 trucks representing fire companies from all over Armstrong County and neighboring Butler County.

But, he noted, none of it would be possible without help from community members like those volunteers who prepare the food and from folks like Bowser who pitch in when asked.

“The support is unbelievable,” Smith said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or

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