East Syracuse Since he was a kid, Mike Cramer has been attending fire department field days. He said that 25 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to attend a different department’s field days every weekend – on some weekends, there were may have even been two field days.
These days, however, that just isn’t the case in Central New York. Cramer said that in total, there are only three or four field days happening this summer.
“Attendance has really been dwindling over the last 20 years,” said Cramer, the captain of East Syracuse Fire Department’s station No. 1 and the field days chairman. “People’s lifestyles have changed from what they used to be. There are two-income families, kids do everything these days – everyone’s on the go - and a lot of departments don’t have the numbers to volunteer for a weekend to make it happen.”
When Cramer joined the East Syracuse Fire Department in 1990, there were 100 members. Since then, that number has dwindled to about 55 members today. Additionally, an increase in events being held by the city of Syracuse has drawn people out of the suburbs and into the city.
“Are you going to go walk around a field day or are you going to go to the fair? Italian fest, Irish fest – there’s so much other stuff going on these days.”
Despite the lower attendance numbers, the East Syracuse Fire Department is putting its all into making sure the event can still take place. For them, it’s a chance to get out into the community and give back to the residents.
“We’re just not ready to get rid of it. We want the community to circle around its residents – it’s still a hometown fire department. We still want to be important to everybody,” he said.
Each year, the fire department mails out ten $1 raffle tickets to every home in the fire district. 200 of those tickets are drawn during field days, and prizes are given out, even if the winner isn’t there to receive them. The department also sells $100 raffle tickets, which are for cash prizes. The first place winner get 25 percent of the money collected, and the amount decreases for second, third and fourth places and so on. All together, the fire department gives back 49 percent of the money from ticket sales.