Newport Firemen’s Festival

The community of Newport plans to get a jump start on the Independence Day holiday when it holds the annual Fireman’s Festival this Saturday.

“We have typically held this on the Fourth but we’ve found out that it costs a lot more to do it on the actual holiday,” said Bill Cochran, assistant fire chief of the Newport Volunteer Fire Department, who added that it also helps that the event doesn’t have to compete with other things that might be going on.

The event began as a fundraiser for the fire department.

“It’s a free event and we pretty much break even every year so basically we continue to do it to give back to the community and because it is tradition,” Cochran said.

This will be the 57th year for the festival, which draws people from not only the Newport community but surrounding areas.

“I have been going to this all my life,” said Newport resident and fiscal officer Bonnie Hockenberry, 63. “My dad, Earl Rouse, was a charter member and my mom used to make food. I think I’ve only missed two years, including last year because of the derecho.”

A few new additions to this year’s festival will attempt to draw more people to the event and to keep them at the fire station for the day.

There will be three musical acts: Fourth Link from 4 to 6 p.m., Johnny Staats and the Delivery Boys from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and “American Idol” contestant Chase Likens from 8:30 to 10 p.m.

According to, Likens, a Point Pleasant, W.Va. native, attended Marshall University and was a semi-finalist in season 11 of the popular reality singing show. That season’s winner was Phillip Phillips.

The Newport Fireman’s Festival will also become a mini “fair” this year.

“We have a local connection with Deshler Amusements to bring in about three rides and some carnival games,” said Cochran. “We hope the music and the rides will bring more people in throughout the day.”

The event will kick off Saturday morning at 11 a.m. with the annual parade. Lineup will start at 10 a.m. behind Newport Elementary School. The school has also agreed to allow parking for the event and there will be a shuttle for guests.

Other activities will start at noon at the fire station, located on Ohio 7, including bingo, a country store, hay rides and more.

The volunteer fire department has about 17 members and serves the Newport community, Newport, Grandview and Little Muskingum townships, Pleasants County in W.Va. and Reno.

“The fire department has always supported the community,” said Hockenberry, who added that it is a relief to know help won’t have to come from far away. “There was the addition of the EMS and I’ve got to witness them on two occasions – they are very professional.”

A big draw the Saturday before Independence Day, of course, is the fireworks. This is the largest expense for the event each year, costing roughly $12,000. The display will begin at 10 p.m. but spectators would benefit from arriving early.

“Space is fine throughout the day but when it comes time for fireworks, it’s elbow to elbow,” Cochran said.