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Newport booya still hot after 62 years

Former Newport volunteer firefighter Don Schlomka stirs a kettle of booya Sunday outside Newport fire hall No 1. alongside Nick Zellmer. Though retired from the department, Schlomka said he keeps coming back to help at booya each year. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)1 / 10
Snow cones were a welcomed treat Sunday during booya, and with temperatures in the 80s they helped cool off patrons. Ken Svitak serves up some to Sam Geraghty, 8, (right) and his brother, Sean, 7, who are grandsons of Newport Mayor Tim Geraghty. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)2 / 10
One-year-old Everett Gustafson of Cottage Grove climbs up in a Newport fire truck Sunday at the department’s annual booya celebration. His mother, Jessica, said the family comes each year. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)3 / 10
Corbin Hopkins, president of that St. Paul Park-Newport Lions Club, gets a game of bingo under way inside the garage of Newport fire hall No 1. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)4 / 10
Fire equipment and fire trucks were available for inspection Sunday at the Newport Fire Department’s annual booya celebration. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)5 / 10
Newport firefighter Steve Cozad demonstrates how to extinguish a grease fire in the department’s simulation trailer Sunday at the booya celebration. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)6 / 10
Newport accountant Deb Schulz runs a wheel game Sunday at the Newport Fire Department’s annual booya celebration. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)7 / 10
Kylie Lovegren, 5, gets her hair painted and a crown during the Newport Fire Department’s annual booya celebration. She is the niece of Newport firefighters Jeff Lovegren. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)8 / 10
Hundreds turned out for the annual booya feast Sunday hosted by the Newport Fire Department at its fire hall No.1. The event is a fundraiser for the Newport Firemens Relief Association. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)9 / 10
Arianna Marson, 3, and her mother, Diana, play a game Sunday during the annual booya celebration hosted by the Newport Fire Department. Nancy Joa, whose husband Jason, is on the department. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)10 / 10

Only at the 62nd-annual booya, hosted by the Newport Fire Department, do people from around south Washington County eat bowlfuls of scorching hot stew on a muggy July afternoon.

Hundreds packed Newport's fire hall No. 1 Sunday to eat from the famous booya caldrons, play bingo with the St. Paul Park-Newport Lions, mingle with family and friends and raise money for the department’s Firemens Relief Association.

"People are saying this is the best booya yet," said Newport fire Cpt. Matt Aune, who is also the president of the association. "Everyone's really excited about it."

Four 60-gallon kettles and one 70-gallon kettle — regular and cajun flavors — boiled for hours prior to the start of the Sunday feast, and Assistant Fire Chief Tom Ingemann said the stock of booya was nearly depleted two hours into to the event.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” he said. “And the weather is cooperating, so that helps.”

Throughout the afternoon, Newport firefighters Jon Anderson and Steve Cozad gave live demonstrations of a grease fire and taught kids fire safety tips. Volunteer firefighters, both past and present, and family members ran carnival games, food booths and a beer garden.

Julie Johnson, whose son is Newport firefighter Jeff Lovegren, said the booya celebration served as an impromptu family get-together.

“It’s not often that all of us are in the same place at the same time,” she said. “It’s great when we’re all together.”

The booya rakes in thousands of dollars for the Newport Firemens Relief Association, and Aune said it’s an opportunity for the firefighters to be involved with the community.

“This is a great community event that brings everyone from the area all together,” he said. “And we enjoy it, and we know the people enjoy it, too.”