It started 36 years ago when a couple of Wayne County fire chiefs weren’t getting along. The Williamson Fire Company decided to challenge a few local fire departments to a game of softball for beers and bragging rights. A game that was aimed at improving relations between local volunteer fire departments has turned into 36 years of memories and lifelong friendships.
Each year, between 12 to 16 teams made up of volunteer fire departments in Wayne County get together to resume a tradition created by founders Shawn Contant, Frank Clark, Jerry Sherman, Paul Heitmann and Larry Hubright of the Williamson Fire Department.
What began as a simple softball game has turned into a summer softball league that concludes with a two-day tournament on the third weekend of August.
“The great thing about this event is that you get to know everyone” said Clark, an active member of the Williamson Fire Company No. 1 for 46 years, and founder of the event. Frank says that forming relationships with the guys who may be standing next to you when fighting a major fire is important.
Even though the Williamson Fire Company has only won the tournament once in its 36-year history, the event means much more to its organizers.
“This is the department’s major fundraiser and the money made during the weekend goes toward the upkeep of the fields and facilities which are also used by the Williamson Recreation Program, and others throughout the year.” said Tournament Director Craig Bouwens.
Bouwens says that the family-friendly event brings close to a thousand spectators over the weekend. Families set up camp and stay for the weekend.
“It’s a great weekend. Over the years we’ve had a little bit of everything….mud tournaments and even a marriage proposal.” stated founder Shawn Contant who recounted 36 years of memories.
There’s been a few minor injuries over the years, but mostly just a few hurt egos from those who take the event too seriously. “The guys who come in here and take the game too seriously, get put in their place quickly.” said Clark.
To ensure fairness, professional umpires are hired for the event. The umpires choose the MVP and the Sportsmanship Award named after former Wayne County Fireman’s Association Treasurer John VerHow.
Members of the Wallington Volunteer Fire Department hoisted this year’s trophy by beating Macedon Center’s Volunteer Fire Department in the final game.
“It’s a fun tournament and the winner earns bragging rights and a trophy, but the real focus of the summer softball league and yearly tournament is camaraderie” said Clark.
The results of the Williamson Fire Company’s 36th Annual Softball Tournament are:
1st Place: Wallington
2nd Place Macedon Center
3rd Place Sodus Point
4th Place Newark
Most Valuable Player: Kent Kelsey
Sportsmanship Award: Wallington
Ed (Tanker) Toye Award:
Mark Gelina (East Williamson)