A little bit of Hollywood is coming to a Camp Creek movie screen near you.
The Camp Creek Volunteer Fire Department’s “Drive-In Cinema” concept is just one of the creative ways Greene County’s volunteer fire departments are resuming fundraising activities after the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted accustomed ways of raising money.
Other fundraising events are right around the corner.
The Tusculum Volunteer Fire Department’s “Old Fashioned Barbecue & Homemade Supper” will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on June 26, at Tusculum City Hall, 145 Alexander St.
The Midway and Mosheim volunteer fire departments will hold their annual fireworks sale beginning on June 21 through July 5 at the Mosheim Volunteer Fire Department, 7700 W. Andrew Johnson Highway.
Most local volunteer fire departments felt the financial pinch during the pandemic year of 2020. Camp Creek was among them.
“Due to COVID-19 last year, our fundraising efforts were very limited by that situation,” Camp Creek fire Chief Jeff Wilburn said.
Fire department members were unable to hold barbecues and similar fundraisers in 2020 because of the virus.
Camp Creek saw “about a two-thirds total drop in our revenues due to COVID-19,” Wilburn said.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
Wilburn said Camp Creek firefighters began to think outside of the box and came up with a the drive-in concept.
The drive-in is located across the street from the Camp Creek Volunteer Fire Department station at 700 Greystone Road.
“We started getting in contact with the motion picture licensing group and had to negotiate what name we would use at the cinema. They had to approve the site and location, which they did and officially tell us the screen size we could use,” Wilburn said.
The rustic venue is officially licensed as the Camp Creek VFD Drive-In Cinema.
“We have been recognized as an official drive-in cinema through the movie studios like Walt Disney studios, Paramount and all the big studios. We use this opportunity to help raise funds and give family entertainment to the public,” Wilburn said. “We have been working on this for about a year, trying to help with fundraising.”
Fire department members began preparing and building the site in July 2020. Several “test movies” were shown, including a screening of the new release of “The Lion King” in October 2020.
“That night went very well. We showed two more trial movies in 2020 and they went well,” Wilburn said. “It is a learning experience for us on this kind of fundraising but it is something different and it brings back nostalgic ways of the past.”
The new release of “Tom & Jerry: The Movie” will be screened at 9 p.m. Saturday. Gates will open at 8 p.m.
Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for children ages 3 through 12. Children under 3 will be admitted free.
“We invite all that loved the old-style drive-in movies to come out,” Wilburn said. “There will be gifts to all kids who attend the start of the 2021 season.”
Firefighters will also operate a concession stand. Portable rest rooms will be on site.
“We have an FM transmitter that puts the sound directly to your car’s FM station, and we also have portable radios you can borrow to listen to the show, and also outside speakers positioned around the cinema, so if you want, you can sit outside in lawn chairs,” Wilburn said.
The screen size is 20 feet in height and 30 feet wide.
“The screen is designed so we can lift it up and take it down because of high winds in the Camp Creek area sometimes. It is not a blow-up screen but a true cinema screen designed for our area,” Wilburn said.
Further refinements to the drive-in will be made “with (movie studio) lawyers understanding we will be adding and improving the cinema as we go,” he said.
“They agreed to let us show movies under their authority, and licensing was given to the Camp Creek VFD Drive-In cinema,” Wilburn said.
Attending a drive-in movie in Greene County has not been a Saturday night entertainment option for some time, Wilburn said.
“We show movies that are legally licensed. We have the full rights to the show. We want to let everyone know in Greeneville that we have brought back something that Greene County has not had in years,” he said.
BBQ, FIREWORKS SALE
The Tusculum Volunteer Fire Department’s annual barbecue is a primary fundraiser for the organization each year, fire Chief Marty Shelton said.
The dinner was cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
In past years, it has been held in the building across the street from city hall where fire trucks are parked. There will be a few modifications in 2021 as the COVID-19 virus lingers in Tennessee.
“We will be doing a to-go type meal for all served that day. We are trying to set up a tent with the tables across the street for anyone who wants to eat on-site and not in the truck bays this time as we have done in the past,” Shelton said.
Shelton said that other fire departments have reported that the to-go option “is very popular right now.”
“We will revisit the normal (setup) next time based on the situation (in 2022),” he said.
The barbecue dinner menu includes a Yoder’s barbecue sandwich or hot dog plate for $10. The dinners include baked beans, cole slaw, chips, a drink and ice cream. The children’s hot dog plate is $5.
The Midway and Mosheim volunteer fire departments depend on proceeds from the annual fireworks sale, Mosheim fire Chief Harold Williamson said.
“This is our biggest fundraiser for the year. This is what keeps our doors open. Due to the COVID, most (volunteer) departments are hurting for funds right now,” he said.
Williamson said the economy was also affected by the pandemic, which has an impact on volunteer fire departments.
“Fuel prices are really causing a strain on the departments from all the call volumes that we have been receiving,” he said. “Being able to (hold) fundraisers again is a blessing not just for us, but for our communities we serve.”
Wilburn said all of Greene County’s volunteer departments need assistance from the citizens they serve.
“We depend greatly on our community support to keep these fire departments up and running and we do certainly appreciate what everyone does to help support us,” he said.