WHATELY — About two dozen volunteers worked like a well-oiled machine at Whately Congregational Church on Monday, piecing together 300 chicken barbecue meals to be picked up by those who bought tickets to benefit the church’s operations.
The 28th annual Labor Day chicken barbecue served as an important fundraiser, with the proceeds likely going to the church’s general treasury. People parked their vehicles near the church and checked in with two women before moseying into the basement to get their food to take home.
“We have a reputation for having some of the best chicken around,” said the Rev. Cynthia Crosson-Harrington, the church’s pastor, during a lull in activity.
Operating like a buffet assembly line, some volunteers repeatedly collected onto each plate a piece of chicken, fresh corn and a baked potato and roll and placed it in front of another volunteer who wrapped it in aluminum foil and handed it off to be wrapped in a grocery bag with a brownie. Some people ordered as many as 18 meals to bring home, according to Nancy Wilson, who co-chairs the church’s stewardship committee with Betty Lou Guilford and Adelia Bardwell.
Wilson said this was the first year the chicken was prepared at the Whately Fire Department and transported a mile to the church. She said the cooks always have to place a large tarp over the barbecue pit near the church when it rains, whereas chicken can be cooked under the fire station’s roof. Everything except the chicken was prepared in the church’s kitchen.
“I think it’s going very well. (It’s) a little warm in the kitchen — (the) smoke detector went off a couple of times,” Wilson said with a laugh. “You know, because it gets so warm in the kitchen. We all work well together. We’ve been working this for many years as a team. So we all have our jobs, and everybody pitches in to make it a success for us.”
Wilson said 300 tickets is not the record, but the church likes to keep the number around that mark for efficiency’s sake. Tickets were $15 for adult meals and $7 for children’s portions, and had to be purchased by cash or check only.
“What we did is we purchased 150 whole chickens from Food City — they’re wonderful to work with,” Nelson said. “And they process it for us. They split them in half, and they’re huge. It’s a great barbecue. We have a reputation for our excellent barbecue.”
Meanwhile, after a brief pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shelburne Falls Eagles annual Chicken BBQ returned on Saturday, continuing a more than 50-year tradition for the club.
“It’s just an annual event we do to help raise money for the club,” said John Riley, a trustee of the fraternal organization. “It’s a good event to bring the community together.”
Guests were served chicken, corn on the cob, baked potato and coleslaw. About 100 meals were pre-ordered, according to trustee Doug Pratt.
“If we sell out this year, we’ll know to make more next year,” Riley said.
As of about 1 pm, an hour after the event kicked off, all walk-in meals were sold out, according to a post on the organization’s Facebook page.
The event included a raffle, which Riley noted was partially to raise money for the organization’s new dishwasher. The bar downstairs, typically open only to members, was also open to the public on Saturday.
More information on the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which meets twice monthly at the club at 52 State St., can be found online at foe.com. Applications for membership can be picked up at the club.