WEST UNION, OHIO – The Adams County Jr. Beef BBQ took place Thursday afternoon.
Since 1963, people of all ages gather around to eat these locally famous beef barbecue sandwiches. On Thursday evening, the Jr. Fair Beef BBQ Committee served 1,342 dinners; that’s somewhere between 1,342 and 2,684 plus beef sandwiches depending on how many kids meals and adult meals were served.
A lot of time and preparation goes into an important community event like this.
“It starts with us splitting the wood and digging the pit; we split five cords of fire wood between four and five feet long. While were splitting the wood, another group is preparing the pit, digging it out. The pit is 42 feet long, four feet wide, and four feet deep. We then layer the pit with wood and before we light it on fire we call the fire department and tell them not to come,” said Corbett Phipps, who is the chairman.
“One year we didn’t call and we had the whole fire department out here ready to put out the fire! We will add layers of wood on it until 11:30 at night and then at 2:30 a.m., we level it and let the coals blacken, and layer sand over it to cover the coals,” he said.
As they are preparing the wood and fire pit, there is another group simultaneously wrapping 1,050 pounds of choice round beef, rubbing the meat with salt, wrapping it in parchment paper and white muslin cloth; then they tie a string around it to keep it intact.
“At 3:30 a.m. there are about two feet of coals in the pit with a layer of sand to cover the coals. We lay all the packages of the meat on the sand. Then we lay steel posts across the pit and place barn tin across the posts. Once the tin is laid down we shovel a foot of dirt on top of the tin to make an earthen oven,” Phipps said.
At 3 p.m. the next day, the Peebles FFA comes to shovel the dirt off and collect the packages of meat in a tub to take to the career center, where it is unwrapped and taken to be sliced. Once the meat is sliced, it’s taken to the sandwich table where there are a dozen people who have formed an assembly line to make sandwiches. When the sandwiches are made, they go onto another the assembly line with the beans, coleslaw, chips, and drinks.
“If they’re eating in they just grab a plate and a drink, and sit down in the cafeteria to enjoy it. However, 60 to 70 percent will choose to carry out their meal. In two and a half hours we will have served around 1,400 people,” Phipps said.
From the time the wood is being split until the very end of the next day when the dinner ends, the students of the Jr. Fair have done more than their share. The vocational school FFA, Ag business class, Ag mechanic class, West Union FFA and Manchester FFA, North Adams FFA, Peebles FFA, FCCLA, Jr. Fair Board members, the Queen and her court, and many more gave a helping hand.
After all the bills are paid for the supplies used to make this dinner happen, the profit made will go directly to the Jr. Fair. The money raised goes to improving buildings and barns for the Jr. Fair, pens for goats, and more.
Phipps also added “The best parts are the sandwiches, watching, and interacting with the kids. It’s their opportunity to give back to the community and they love doing it. You’d be surprised at how many of these kids become county commissioners, fire and rescue, ems, police, highway patrols. These students learn the value of giving back to the community. One day they’ll be community leaders, 4-H club advisors, or even school teachers. As for the sandwiches, there’s nothing on the meat except for salt, but somehow it becomes a taste you cannot replicate.”