Sacred Heart held their 44th Annual Bazaar October 10 and 11. The event, which raises funds for the parish, is an opportunity for friends and acquaintances locally and from across the miles to come together and renew those common bonds.
“I think the main reason we do this each year is to provide a fun weekend for everyone to have together,” Carol Turner, chairman for the event said. “It’s just a really fun way for us to come together and share together.”
Silent and live auctions, a 5-K run, turtle and hamster races, raffles, and cakewalks are all a part of the celebration and as in previous years, the event has been according to Turner, extremely successful.
“I don’t have a final dollar amount yet,” Turner said, “But we have had another really good year, the naming rights to the circle drive brought in $4,600 alone.”
One other aspect of the two-day Bizaar, which is always a crowd favorite, dinner held on Saturday night and Sunday for lunch.
The menu, which has remained fairly consistent for the 44 years it has been held, features fried chicken or ham, green beans, corn, cole slaw mashed potatoes and gravy, chicken and noodles, homemade desserts and rolls.
While many of the workers have changed throughout the years in the kitchen, there is a group of devoted men, “the friars club,” who have remained a constant at the dinners.
Tucked away, in a small room behind the kitchen at the school, the twenty or so men have been preparing and frying the estimated 700 pounds of chicken each October for the event.
“I know these two, my dad, Don and Ken (Opfer) have been here since the beginning,” David Dick, who is in charge of the chicken frying, said. “When they started the dinners, they were here and now it seems it is just something that fathers and sons and cousins and classmates do together, or at least that’s true for many of us.
“When they first started there were a group of about six or eight of them who fried all the chicken up in cast iron skillets on some long gas burners outside,” Dick recalled. “I don’t think it ever rained a drop on them in all those years.”
Today, the men use three deep fat fryer fryers to prepare the chicken, which is cooked for 21 minutes.
While the time it takes to fry the chicken is no secret, the breading for the chicken is as close a guarded secret, much like another famous chicken recipe.
“The recipe just kind of dropped into my lap from my dad and some of the older men here,” Ron Huhman said. “I took the one that was given to me and doctored it up some over the years.
Huhman, owner of the Benton House Restaurant, said one of the best aspects of the time in the kitchen was forming bonds with some of the younger generation who came to work at the dinners.
“It’s really funny to get a wife who thinks her husband couldn’t cook,” Huhman added. “”I don’t think they can believe how good a cook they truly are.
“The guys never questioned what we asked them to do; they just come in and do it,” Huhman said. “They really are a great group to work with.”
Each of the men has a specific task they carry out in the process, from cutting the chickens, to breading, and placing in the fryers, timing and taking the temperature of the cooked meat to carrying the finished product to the line to be served.
“We all just get into a routine and it works,” Fred Pfeiffer said. “The new ones come in when someone decides it is time to move on, but it always works.”
For many of the men involved, one reason they became involved, was when they received their calling so to speak.
“One day David called me up and said, ‘I need you to help,’” Jody Chmelir said. “That was all it took, I’ve been here I guess 25 years now, and now my sons are helping too.”
Chemlir, along with Wayne Simon and Don Dick, are the Sunday morning crew, who come to the kitchen early on Sunday mornings to start the prep for the 11 o’clock lunch.
“When dad and Ken were first doing this, I guess I was in junior high,” David Dick said. “There are a lot of fond memories and stories that we all have from our years doing this.
“I think the reason we keep at it is because it is a way to give back to the church and the community,” he added. “We need to keep the tradition alive for the next generation the way our fathers and grandfathers did for us.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484