On October 19, Hyde Park neighbors and firefighters rallied in celebration of the 40th Annual Fire Station Festival. Hundreds and hundreds of neighbors were in attendance. Each year, the festival marks a time to be thankful for the fact that Fire Station 9 is still up and running after it was first threatened with closure 40 years ago. Initially organized by Hyde Park resident Dorothy Richter, the fall festival represents a rich history of community-building and advocacy.
Festivities were kicked off in Shipe Park with a lively parade along Avenues G and F and down 43rd St. Excitement was high as children, parents, and even pets donned their Halloween best and marched to the beat of the Eastside High School Panther Drum Line. Led by a Station 9 fire truck, the rear was brought up by recognizable neighborhood vehicles like Carol and Amos Burton’s red truck. When nearing the fire station, kids on bikes, scooters, and foot rushed ahead of the banner to meet the hefty crowd that had already gathered.
Festivalgoers were then treated to a drumline performance and, later, music by Eggjam, a Beatles tribute group who regaled the audience with banter between playing best-loved tunes on request.
Younger attendees enjoyed a good offering of activities including hair sculpture, henna, and face painting. Plenty of games were also available to play for prizes; and as a testament to the fun being had, kids were seen carrying plastic fire hats brimming with goodies. When asked if he enjoyed playing hoops, four-year-old Jack (sometimes known as Spiderman) could only smile. His mother had more to say. “We come every year. My oldest loves the photo booth, and it’s just a great time. We’ll definitely be back.”
Of course, the annual Fire Station Festival would be incomplete without a few firefighters walking around, and this year there were plenty more than usual to share in the fun. Lieutenant Wiese spoke of the behind-the-scenes excitement at the firehouse. “We look forward to this every year. We appreciate the support we get around here because it’s not common around the city, where plenty of fire stations shut down and people don’t care. That is definitely not the case here.” Fireman Fry, who was selling T-shirts for the event, agreed with the sentiment, adding that he was amazed at the community interest in Station 9 compared to similar events at other stations where he’s worked.
Liz Lock and Eric C. Hughes of the Adams House B&B announced the costume category winners. This year’s recipients were as follows:
- Scariest: Glenis Luce as a murderer attending her own funeral
- Funniest: Henry Ross as Nacho Libre
- Most Creative: Lily Pierce as Frieda Kahlo
- Best Pet: Lisa Moomaw’s Daisy the Dog as a “cat princess”
- Best Family Costume: The Coopers as “The Frankenfurters.”
The firefighters showed their appreciation by posing for pictures and giving safety demonstrations with the help of a state-of-the-art safety trailer.
Adding another highlight to the afternoon, Friends of Shipe Park proudly awarded Austin City Council member Laura Morrison the first-ever Neighborhood Hero Award for securing funds to repair Shipe Pool, which had been faced with closure earlier this year. Thanks to her efforts and those of others, Hyde Park will have an even better neighborhood pool at Shipe to enjoy on those hot summer days for years and years to come.
In the same vein, the HPNA recognized the following individuals for their contributions to the Hyde Park neighborhood:
- Kathy Lawrence: for producing programs that educate Hyde Park about Austin issues
- David Conner: for Development Review Committee leadership that preserves and protects Hyde Park
- Mark Fishman: for protecting and preserving Hyde Park’s public and green spaces
- Adam Wilson: for helping HPNA meetings with space, recording equipment, and more
- Michael Crider: for improving and freshening the HPNA website.
Once again this year, neighbors generously donated books before and during the Fire Station Festival in a drive organized by Anne-Marie Grieger. In all, 200 books were collected for BookSpring, a local organization that provides reading experiences and books to children and their families.
The outstanding success of this year’s festival was of course only made possible by the scores of volunteers. As HPNA Social Chair and main festival organizer Deaton Bednar noted, “One of the joys of creating the Fire Station Festival experience is participating in this effort with my Hyde Park neighbors. Their enthusiasm, creativity, innovations, and dedication make this the ‘best festival ever’ each year.” Indeed, the influence of our Fire Station Festival has even reached Israel, as a participant’s brother living there was also inspired to hold a fire station festival!
The following dedicated, talented leaders have served three or more years in creating this festival: Linda van Bavel, Judy Gurgiolo, Lynne Hohfeld, Liz Lock, Paula Rhodes, and Joan Yamini. Our thanks goes to these and many others for their excellent efforts on behalf of the neighborhood. And of course, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to Deaton Bednar herself, who has just completed a decade (yes, a decade) of chairing this event.
Staff Writer Intern