Junior Fair hosts 55th BBQ

County Recorder Mark Tolle, center, and Common Pleas Judge Brett Spencer sell tickets on the sidewalk outside the CTC for last week’s annual Junior Fair Beef BBQ. (Photo by Patricia Beech)

Annual dinner benefits county fairgrounds – 

By Patricia Beech – 

A record number of barbecue lovers turned out for 55th Junior Fair Beef BBQ held Thursday, Sept. 6 at the Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center in West Union.
The barbecue is produced every year through the combined efforts of the Junior Fair members, the Commissioners Office, the County Highway Office, and local FFA chapters.
This year the popular annual barbeque drew in 1,342 diners – “that’s eight more than attended last year,” according to event organizer Corbett Phipps, who says “preparing a meal for that many people is a days-long undertaking”.
Days before the barbecue, the County Highway Department, with permission of the County Commissioners office, digs the 40-foot long, four foot deep and wide barbecue pit in which the meat will be slow-cooked.

Over 1,300 hungry customers were served at the Sept. 6 Junior Fair Beef BBQ. (Photo by Patricia Beech)

Two days before the barbecue is set to begin, FFA Chapters from the CTC and West Union and Manchester High Schools began splitting the logs for the fire pit. On the day before the barbecue, the pit is filled with slabs and kindling wood and set ablaze around 5 p.m. Every hour more wood is added until 11:30 p.m. when the fire is allowed to die down. At 3 a.m. an inch of sand is thrown over the two feet of hot coals produced from the burning wood. At 3:30 a.m. the meat, wrapped in parchment paper and muslin cloth, is placed into the pit. Steel posts are laid over the pit and covered with tin on to which a foot of dirt is thrown to create an earthen oven.
The Peebles FFA Chapter arrives at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon to uncover the pit and transport the meat to the CTC building where it is sliced. CTC Restaurant Management Instructor Becky Foster and her food-service class then prepare the sandwiches.
The Junior Fair BBQ began in 1963 when the local Banker and Implement Dealers Association purchased fair stock to help raise money to build show barns on the fairgrounds.
In the years since the annual dinner has produced thousands of dollars to help pay for fairground and building improvements.