The Blair Volunteer Fire Department was hoping to festively acknowledge a milestone anniversary this year, Fire Chief Joe Leonard said.

"This is actually our 150th year, so we were looking to having a big celebration," he said.

But as local health department guidelines and state Directed Health Measure restrictions related to COVID-19 have limited many large events and official get-togethers across Nebraska, so too have these guidelines and restrictions impacted area fire departments like BVFD and the Fort Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department.

Several of both departments regular fundraisers have been, or in the case of October pancake feeds, are expected to be canceled due to safety precautions encouraged by guidelines and restrictions.

But at least one fundraiser is scheduled for Aug. 1 when Cottonwood Cove Marina and RV Resort hosts its third annual Rumble on the River Poker Run. The funds from this year's event will go to the BVFD and FCVFD to help their efforts in river rescues.

"Blair and Fort Calhoun, we both rely on donations," FCVFD Fire Chief Dan Mallory said. "It will be a tremendous asset."

Mallory said in the last three months, FCVFD has had four or five calls to help someone on the river, which is usually the amount of calls the department receives in a year. He said more people are boating on the river this year after being unable to do so for around the last two years due to events like flooding. Floods, Mallory said, have changed many aspects of the river, such as new channels, which may affect boating safety.

Mallory also said the department's equipment for river rescues comes almost entirely from donations or fundraisers.

Leonard said the owners of Cottonwood Cove approached the departments about directing funds from the poker run to their river rescue efforts. He said the owners had noticed the departments out on the river and knew that many fire and rescue fundraising events had been canceled.

"It's really nice that they're stepping up and doing this event," Leonard said. "We're just kind of falling back, and they're willing to help."

The poker run will include five stops along the Missouri River, a silent auction, raffles and live music by Hotel Desperado: A Tribute to the Eagles. Auction item donations are encouraged and can be dropped off at either fire department or Cottonwood Cove.

Sign up for the event is available on the Cottonwood Cove website.

"This event is truly beneficial for our department," Mallory said.

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