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Mixing things up at the annual Mt. Baldy fire fundraiser

Mt. Baldy Fire Department’s 59th annual fundraiser takes place Saturday, June 25, from noon to 8 p.m., and this year the traditional steak fry has given way to two of the more trendy culinary fads of the moment—food trucks and craft beer.

“It’s kind of a popular thing, so we thought we’d give it a whirl this year and see what happens,” said Mt. Baldy Fire Chief Graham Hendrickson.

The annual event has routinely provided about half of the department’s approximately $50,000 yearly budget, but recently those numbers have begun to wane. In the past, tickets were $25 and there were about 1,000 dinners served.

Profits have been steadily declining, said Chief Hendrickson, and raising the prices to cover the shortfall didn’t sit well with him.

“That’s a lot of money when you bring your whole family up,” he said. “This way, it might be a little more affordable for families.”

Instead of charging per meal, this year patrons will pay gate fee, then pick and choose between three food trucks (Eat ‘em Up, Bacon Nation and Mustache Mike’s). Guests 21 and over have four craft breweries from which to choose: Last Name Brewing, Old Stump Brewing, La Verne Brewing and Fireman’s Brew.

Entertainment this year will be provided by classic rock cover bands The Huge and The Fugitives.

The tax deductible entry fee is $10 for those 13 and up and $5 for kids ages six through 12. Kids five years and under are free.

The Mt. Baldy Fire Department is an all-volunteer unit—one of just a handful in Southern California—made up of 17 men and women. The crew’s day jobs include engineers, airline pilots, ambulance services, firefighters and retirees. All of the firefighters live in Mt. Baldy.

Chief Hendrickson, a Pitzer College grad, has been with the department 32 years. He joined when he was 18, and spent 15 years as assistant chief before being appointed chief in 2015, following longtime chief Bill Stead’s retirement.

“It’s to serve our community and protect our own,” Chief Hendrickson said of the all volunteer force.

His own son, Blake Hendrickson, also has the service bug, having joined the department when he was 18, in 2012. His day job is as a San Bernardino County Fire Department ambulance operator.

“It’s kind of a tradition for kids that grow up in the community, when they turn 18, to become part of the department,” Chief Hendrickson explained.

It remains to be seen whether bucking tradition and trying something new will be a success with respect to the department’s annual fundraiser. Chief Hendrickson said he will go with the flow and see where it leads.

“I tell all my guys, ‘You know, it’s either going to be a huge success or a big flop,’” he said. “If it’s a big flop we can always go back to the way we used to do it.”

Mt. Baldy Fire Department’s fundraiser runs from noon to 8 p.m. next Saturday, June 25, at Mt. Baldy Trout Pools, located at 6945 Mt. Baldy Rd. More information is available at mtbaldyfire.com or (909) 982-1213.

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

 

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