Johnny Johnson quickly had to grasp the art of fundraising.
As chief of the Johnstown Volunteer Fire Department in 1975, he knew times were tough and the station was in need of a new emergency squad.
"You couldn't use tax dollars back then, so we had to raise the money," he said.
So Johnson, who has organized such events as golf outings and bake sales, went to work. Every donation helped, but it was a street fair that raised several hundred dollars.
Today that street fair has grown into the four-day Johnstown Fireman's Festival, with carnival rides, games and nightly entertainment.
From Wednesday, June 11, to Saturday, June 14, the heart of Johnstown will resemble an amusement park as the Johnstown Fire Department Association Inc. hosts the festival for the 39th time.
The organization uses the festival proceeds to help maintain its 1941 Ford C-Series fire truck, an 1889 hand pump and hose cart and the association's building. It also funds yearly charities, but most of the money goes to the Monroe Township Fire Department.
"We received about $5,000 last year and used it to purchase equipment that we wouldn't have been able to afford," Fire Chief Dudley Wright said. "Couple that with a really fun family event. The two go hand in hand."
In the past, festival money has helped purchase a grass fire truck, a thermal-imaging camera and physical-fitness equipment. Last year's funds helped pay for a device that performs CPR.
The department, with an annual operating budget of roughly $1.8 million, employs 13 full-time firefighters and paramedics and about two dozen intermittent and volunteer personnel who responded to more than 2,000 requests for assistance in 2012.
The township has been discussing plans for a new fire station headquarters that would require voters to approve a bond issue.
Trustees have yet to determine when they might seek approval. A levy that would have funded a new station was rejected narrowly in 2006.
"We obviously are very appreciative of the association's event because it's a win-win for everyone," trustees chairman Joey Robertson said. "I've lived here all my life. My grandfather was a doctor in town. We always looked forward to going, and my children look forward to it."
The festival events actually begin Tuesday evening with the Miss Johnstown pageant at the Johnstown-Monroe High School Performing Arts Center.
This year's musical acts, all from the central Ohio area, include Marcus 66 (Wednesday), Northwest Territory (Thursday), Forcynthia (Friday) and Illusion (Saturday).
"We've got everything from classic rock to gospel bluegrass and folk music," Johnson said.
The parade, which steps off at noon Saturday, June 14, will feature as many as 90 units. It begins at the police department and heads down Main Street.
Other organizations, such as the Johnstown Athletic Boosters, the Johnstown Lions Club and the Boy Scouts, are participating in the festival that will be open from 6 to 11 p.m. June 11, 6 p.m. to midnight June 12 and 13 and noon to midnight June 14.