ELIZABETH - For 35 years, the annual Elizabeth/Wirt County Volunteer Fire Department Ice Cream Social has been a way for Wirt County residents to keep a vital service going and to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday.
Stephen Settle, chief of the department, said the ice cream social was started for two reasons.
"We started this as a fundraiser because at the time there was no state funding for volunteer fire departments so we needed a way to make money for the department and there were no Fourth of July events in Wirt County," he said. "So we chose the Fourth and it has now pretty much become a tradition."
Evelyn Barnett holds Sarah Logan, both of Elizabeth, as they dance during the Elizabeth/Wirt County Volunteer Fire Department Ice Cream Social. (Photo by Jeffrey Saulton)
Joseph Brannon, right, and Tyler Brannon take part in the cornhole tournament to benefit the Wirt County High School Marching Band during the Elizabeth/Wirt County Volunteer Fire Department Ice Cream Social. (Photo by Jeffrey Saulton)
Day Spring performs during the Elizabeth/Wirt County Volunteer Fire Department Ice Cream Social on Saturday. Members of the group are, from left, Jason Caltrider, John Douglas, Sue Douglas and Mike Douglas. (Photo by Jeffrey Saulton)
Saturday's ice cream social began with the Firecracker 5K run and walk at 8 a.m. and continued with a parade, the social, auction and entertainment that included gospel, country and southern rock, he said. Settle said having a celebration close to home provides an inexpensive way for Wirt County families to enjoy the holiday without traveling and at a minimum expense.
"We expect to sell 2,500 hot dogs, 60 gallons of ice cream and more than 100 cases of sodas and bottled water," he said Saturday. "We have more than 100 pies and cakes donated to us."
Settle said last year organizers learned how important a celebration the Elizabeth/Wirt VFD Ice Cream Social is to the community. Not even the 2012 derecho and the massive power outages from it which lasted for weeks in its wake were able to stop the celebration.
"We put one on despite the storm and had a great one regardless," he said. "That was nothing short of showing this is one of the most supportive communities I have ever seen."
Settle said the Wirt County community has supported the program in many ways and during the celebration it is seen in the donations of items for the auction and in cakes and pies for the event.
"They donate door prizes and they donate auction items and then they go out and turn around and come back and buy it," he said. "I can't think of a better place you could ask for and the fire department is truly grateful for everything they do for us.
"We are just thankful for our supportive community that allows us to do this," he said. "It lets us give them some enjoyment for the day and a way for us to make a little money to continue to operate and help others."
Elizabeth resident Mary Barton said the social is like a reunion.
"We look forward to the fun and entertainment," she said "With all the community here it is like a big reunion. You know everybody, it's just small town fun."