(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the North East Fireman’s Cherry Festival is back.

While the community is excited for the rides, games, and of course those cherry pies again, the town’s two volunteer fire departments say the festival’s return comes at a critical time.

Crescent and Fuller Hose companies say about 75% of their annual budget comes from Cherry Festival revenue. 

Because they’ve gone two years without festival, revenue, and dealing with record-high fuel prices, the money the Cherry Festival will generate over the next four days is desperately needed. 

The North East Fireman’s Cherry Festival is back for its 75th year.

“It is excellent to be back you know. In a way it’s like starting over again. We haven’t done it in two years,” said David Meehl, Fire Chief of the North East Fire Department.

Because of the pandemic, the fire department had to get creative. They sold raffle tickets and hosted a drive thru selling their traditional sausage sandwiches and french fries. 

“It was hard, I mean you know. Are you going to make exactly what you make at a full festival? Not as much as you would think.” Meehl added. “We got a lot of donations which helped a lot.”

Both Fuller and Crescent Hose companies rely on the community’s support, and the majority of that support comes from their annual Cherry Festival. 

“This money helps us with our training, our equipment, the maintenance on all the vehicles, the insurance. Everything we do to make this fire department function,” Meehl said.

Erie residents said they are happy to be back at the festival and to support their local community.

“I’m just really excited to come out and have something to do with the children you know. Like I said, bring the little ones out here just something to do enjoy the festivities and also to donate to the fire department,” said Justin Dillion, resident.

“We always buy our tickets when the firemen come around. I’m born and raised in North East, spend a lot of time in this park and enjoy the firemen, so yeah just all around fun,” said Jason Locke, North East resident.

That fun continues through Saturday. The festival goes until 11 p.m. each night.

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JET24, FOX66 and YourErie.com will be taking part in the annual Cherry Festival parade on Saturday.