Out of My Mind, May 10, 2012

Oroville Chamber gets new, much needed partner for May Fest BBQ

Can you believe that May Festival is this weekend? For the north county this event marks the start of a flurry of summertime happenings to come.
May Festival holds a special place in the hearts of those of us who grew up in the Oroville area – marching with the scouts or riding a bike in the parade, or just watching from the sidelines and scrambling for the candy being thrown.
When I was a kid the water fights weren’t so much with the firefighters as they travelled the parade route, but more so on the battleground that was the old baseball field at the high school. Faucets at the dugouts supplied the liquid ammo for our water balloons, surgical tubing and the much less sophisticated squirt guns of the era. Now where the baseball field used to be the Mason’s hold their kids’ games and that’s probably a better and some might say, safer, activity.
After moving back home following college and work in Spokane and Seattle I didn’t realize I’d be thrown into preparing for one of the festivals longest running traditions – the May Festival Barbecue. I was informed by the then publisher, Bob Davis, that the Gazette-Tribune was in charge of the meat wrapping, something his former boss, the late Cleland Emry volunteered the newspaper for (as seen in a Items from the Past from 50 years ago). Bob said that if he had to do it so would I. It didn’t take long to find out we weren’t really in charge of anything, Joyce Green came by, gave us our orders and we commenced wrapping roasts in aluminum foil and tying them up with bailing wire with loops so the fire crew could lower and raise them from the pit barbecue.
Joan Cool has been our faithful meat wrap crew and barbecue day leader for the better part of the past couple of decades. She and a loyal group of volunteers have wrapped and served the barbecued sandwiches for so long now that she and the chamber have been looking for another organization to take over. The chamber thought we had a new BBQ host last year, but it didn’t work out. However, the Eagles have stepped up and will be sharing the duties with the chamber, giving some of the BBQ veterans a chance to enjoy other aspects of the festival.
Why is the barbecue so important you might ask. Well the money raised from the lunch goes primarily to buy insurance for the May Festival royalty, float and drivers, covering them in Oroville and in the other communities in which they appear. It also helps to cover some of the chamber’s other events in our community like the Toast of Oroville Wine Festival and the NW Ice Fishing Festival.
The chamber’s grateful the Eagles have volunteered to take the project on – it’s groups like these that continue to make May Festival such an important part of the community.