25 Years of Community Partnerships and Annual Traditions

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July/August 2023

There are several longstanding traditions that the Carmel Farmers Market has cultivated over the last 25 years. The Annual Carmel Fire Department Firehouse Cookoff at CFM is one of those beloved traditions, and it not only highlights the culinary skills and competitive spirit of all six CFD firehouses but also shines a bright light on the bond CFM and CFD have with the Carmel community.

25 Years of Community Partnerships

Recently, CFM hosted CFD for the return of the cookoff during the Saturday summer market. This event is coordinated by CFM committee member and longtime CFD volunteer Doug Dolan. All six CFD stations compete against one another for the winning title, plaque and bragging rights. Marketgoers vote on which of the stations’ dishes they enjoyed the most and get to engage with some of Carmel’s finest public servants throughout the event.

Two-Plus Decades of Food and Fellowship

CFM President Ron Carter recalled how the tradition began back in 2000.

“We outlined what we wanted to do and got with the Carmel Fire Department, and I went to Walmart and bought a skillet,” Carter said. “We were fortunate enough to strike a chord and note in the fire stations because of their competitiveness, and that helped move [the cookoff] along. Most people only see firefighters on what is most likely one of the worst days of their life — when their house is burning — and they don’t have an opportunity to see them as members of the community interacting with our citizens [absent an emergency], and this cookoff has been a prime way for people to experience that and see CFD in action in a very lighthearted way.”

CFD Division Chief of Community Relations John Moriarty added, “I get a thrill out of just watching the crews go back and forth and hearing the little digs they throw back at each other — it’s really competitive, and it always has been. That’s just the nature of firefighters. They’re like brothers and sisters at home. But when that tone or bell goes off, it’s a whole different story. Everybody comes together as one, and they have one purpose in mind: to save lives and property.”

Moriarty expressed that the members of CFD appreciate and respect the community every bit as much as the community values the services and sacrifices offered by the men and women of CFD.

“The cookoff is an extremely joyful event and is as much so for CFD,” Moriarty said. “We realize in this fire department that we are blessed to have the opportunity to live and work in this community. There is no better community, no question in my mind. I came here 41 years ago when I got on the job, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I love Carmel. There is a ‘theme’ that has stuck with me throughout my career, and without a question that theme is ‘give back.’”

And the Winner of this Year’s Cookoff is …

Our congratulations to CFD Station 341 for taking home the golden skillet with their winning macaroni and cheese recipe!

25 Years of Community Partnerships

Dolan shared some of the logistics that go into planning the annual cookoff and thanked all the firehouses as well as the volunteers that help him organize, set up, and tear down the event year after year.

“This [event] started in 2000, and every year we bring the [golden skillet] plaque to the market on the day of the cookoff,” Dolan said. “Whichever [fire station] wins gets to display the plaque [engraved with the winning station’s number and year] for that year. This year’s theme was ‘macaroni and cheese.’ The stations put whatever they want in [their recipes], and everybody at the market — including kids — can participate by casting their votes for their favorite dish in one of six coffee cans.”

When asked about choosing a theme for the cookoff, Dolan replied, “I try not to make [the theme] too hard or where they have to do a lot of prep work. We’ve had chili, breakfast casserole, salsa and cobblers in the past. I also get input from CFD and CFM members about what [theme] we should have for that year’s cookoff. It takes a lot of people to pull this [event] off, and I always have help. It’s a great group of guys and gals that help me.”

For a list of upcoming market events and vendors, visit carmelfarmersmarket.com.