All hands on deck for annual barbecue

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The aroma of 1,400 pounds of pork chops will fill the air at the Edgar County 4-H Fairgrounds this afternoon as the annual 4-H Barbecue is scheduled from 4-7 p.m.

According to Brad Cash, who along with his wife, Sharon, served as general chairman of the annual event, it takes 150 volunteers — adults, teens and children — to pull off serving 2,000 meals to Edgar County residents.

Cash and Edgar County 4-H program coordinator Cheryl Funkhouser each emphasized the importance of the barbecue sponsored by the Edgar County 4-H Federation. “It’s the only fundraiser for our 4-H program,” Funkhouser noted.

“The money from the barbecue is how 4-H in Edgar County is operated,” Cash said. “The fees and costs for programs and the fairs add up quickly.”

Cash said he’s always been told the first barbecue was held in 1959. “Bill Moss and Gene Barkley were involved,” he said. The meat of choice was chicken, Cash explained. 

“In the mid-1980s the pork producers pointed out no one raises commercial chickens in the county but there are many pork farmers,” Cash said. “That’s when we switched to the other white meat.”

The barbecue is held rain or shine, Funkhouser said. The event offers eat in or drive-through options for customers. “A majority of our customers come through the drive-through,” Funkhouser said.

Thursday was a day of preparations at the 4-H grounds, Cash explained. The 2,000 potatoes were washed, dried, wrapped in foil and placed in Styrofoam coolers for the trip home with 4-H’ers and their parents. The potato army bakes the potatoes at home and returns them to the 4-H grounds for serving.

“They start arriving about 1 p.m. and by 3 p.m. most of them are back,” Cash said.

Cash noted the potatoes were individually washed with a pressure washer Thursday morning and then laid out on tables to dry. Shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday parents and 4-H members began rolling the potatoes in foil and carefully filling each cooler with 50 potatoes.

In addition to the choice of one or two pork chops, the menu includes dessert, applesauce and baked potato. The applesauce was carefully spooned into cups with lids by 4-H’ers Thursday evening and then refrigerated until today. 

“It takes a lot of hands to get ready but it goes quickly,” Cash said.

Alayna Moore, 17, who serves as the president of the Edgar County 4-H Federation, along with her cousin, vice-president Nick Hamilton, are heavily involved in the barbecue. Both are 2017 high school graduates.

This is will Alayna Moore’s last 4-H barbecue. “I could technically stay in 4-H next year but I’m going to be so far away at college,” she said. She will be attending Barton College in Wilson, N.C.

Moore said one of her favorite things about the 4-H fundraiser is the opportunity to visit with people.

“I was the 4-H Princess one year and I loved walking around talking to people,” she said. 

The Terre Haute South graduate said 4-H’ers learn not only from their projects, but from the opportunities the program gives. “It’s a great way to build leadership skills,” she noted. “Of course, it’s fun, too.”

The money raised from today’s barbecue not only funds the county program, but also  provides opportunities to support participants attending the 4-H Camp at Allerton. “That’s a great experience,” she said, noting she was a counselor at the camp last summer.

Ticket prices have increased this year, Funkhouser said. The cost of a one pork chop meal is $6.50 while the two pork chop meal is $8.50. Tickets are available at the door.

Cash said Elliott Street just south of the fairgrounds will be closed at 3 p.m. today. Traffic for the barbecue will be routed entering the north gate at the Edgar County Fairgrounds. “Just follow the signs,” he said.

The barbecue receives support from the Elliott and Dole Street neighbors and the City of Paris. “We couldn’t do it without them,” he said.