Fighting fires was a family affair in Edinburg’s early days.
Longtime firefighter Lewis Lodico remembers a time when former Fire Chief Elbert Sanders operated his barbershop on the Courthouse Square. On the side, Sanders would also run the local volunteer fire department on a shoestring budget with nothing more than a handful of dedicated citizens.
About 30 volunteer firefighters and three trucks comprised the department in 1949, according to Lodico, who has been in Edinburg’s Fire Department for the past 58 years. Beginning as a boy, he can recall helping his father, who himself was a volunteer firefighter, and among those who began the department’s annual Fireman’s Barbecue, which continues this weekend.
“I remember helping out back then, and of course, it was more of a family affair for everybody involved,” said Lodico, who has run Lodico Electronics on S. 12th Street near the Square for more than 50 years. He was 15 years old when the first barbecue began.
“Back then it was a strictly all-volunteer fire department,” he said. “There was no budget or money allocated for fire equipment. In the rural areas, we needed a truck to handle rural fires. It was at that time when the fire department decided it would throw a barbecue to raise money for a fire truck.”
Lodico, who is only one of two Edinburg firefighters who can recall the event’s early days, says he cannot remember how much was raised that first year for the truck. He does remember the outpouring of public support for the event, which has carried on to the present day.
“It really isn’t meant to be a moneymaker now for us, even though it is because it has grown to serve over 6,000 plates every year,” Lodico says. “It takes everyone’s effort to serve 6,000 plates in a couple of hours of time. But it was something that grew, and we just decided to keep it going.”
This year’s 61st annual Fireman’s Barbecue takes place on Sept. 19 at the Fire Station from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The FD will serve top sirloin, baked potato, and all the trimmings for $8. Proceeds will go to the Volunteer Fire Department Inc.
“It started because we were buying a fire truck for the rural area around Edinburg,” said Fire Department Chief Shawn Snider. “The barbecue was so successful that year, they paid off the note in one year. That’s why it has continued to this day.