Mercer Island brings diverse holidays to Firehouse Munch

The annual Firehouse Munch will take place after the city’s Christmas tree lighting on Dec. 7.

(Closest to farthest) Mercer Island Firefighters Curt Groscost, Shane Gruger, Joe White, Andrew Pearson serve homemade chili to locals attending the 2017 Firehouse Munch. Photo courtesy of the city of Mercer Island

(Closest to farthest) Mercer Island Firefighters Curt Groscost, Shane Gruger, Joe White, Andrew Pearson serve homemade chili to locals attending the 2017 Firehouse Munch. Photo courtesy of the city of Mercer Island

The Mercer Island Fire Department is hosting a Firehouse Munch after the city’s Christmas tree lighting on Dec. 7 to celebrate community as the holiday season settles in.

Island firefighters have a long tradition of hosting the munch and will provide chili for attending islanders as they interact with community members and city officials. The tree lighting and caroling will begin at 7 p.m.

“It’s really an opportunity to bring together community members at the North Fire Station,” said Sarah Bluvas, coordinator at the Mercer Island parks and recreation department. “We’ve partnered with the firehouse for many years to bring this event to fruition, so it’s been a really great opportunity for parks and recreation to work with the fire department.”

The free event is new this year in that the city has talked with several local organizations in an effort to make the tree lighting and firehouse munch more inclusive and diverse. The two events will feature cultural performances and activities celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali and Kwanzaa with help from The Straum Jewish Community Center and One MI.

“We wanted to provide some opportunities and kind of expand it beyond Christmas,” Bluvas said. “We’re really expected to get people making some cute paper crafts, but also give them the opportunity to learn about different traditions… highlighting some traditions of Hanukkah and then also India and South Asia.”

The city selected the holidays it will celebrate based on organizations that reached out to city employees about expanding cultural opportunities.

“We’re looking at this as one step in the direction of offering additional programs or more opportunities that connect the community both to each other but also different cultures and embrace all of the ideas and cultures that might be found on Mercer Island,” Bluvas said.

After the tree lighting performances, city officials will lead locals across the street to the fire station. The Firehouse munch will also feature New Orleans-style jazz from the Barrelhouse Gang.

Bluvas added that she’s excited about meeting the community and seeing the interactions between neighbors. This is Bluvas’s first time organizing the Firehouse Munch for the city.

This year, numerous local businesses and organizations will have tables at the Firehouse Munch including local girl scouts who will be handing out treats, Convivial Cafe who will be serving cake truffles and cookies, the Mercer Island Radio Operators who will educate locals on HAM radios, and Youth Theatre Northwest who will serve treats.

“I’m just excited to see the community come out, enjoy the evening and the opportunity to connect with community members in a festive atmosphere,” Bluvas said.

Bluvas characterized the event as a great opportunity for local businesses to connect with the community and tell everyone about their organizations.

“They provide the munchies,” Bluvas said. “They participate by being the treat vendors at the event.”

The event is a family-oriented event and is free to all attendees. Local kids will have the opportunity to tour a firetruck and talk to their firefighters.

“Hopefully everyone will leave smiling,” Bluvas said. “I hope people have a great time, they get to connect with their community members, enjoy some sweet treats and maybe learn about some other cultural traditions that they may not have known much about.”

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