100 Years of BBQ

SADLY CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19 COMPLICATIONS

A century’s worth of chickens and corn have been devoured at the annual Burt Lake Barbecue. The event, which takes place each year on the third Thursday in August, is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020.

According to Kathy Ginop, who has chaired the barbecue for more than 20 years, the event started when some of the ladies from the Burt Lake Christian Church decided to have a Thursday dinner because at that time a lot of the resorters had cooks and Thursday was cooks day off. The dinner has grown into an annual event that in recent years has served more than 1,000 chickens to people who come from throughout the region.

The dinner is co-sponsored by the Burt Lake Christian Church and the Burt Lake Community Club. The Community Club is located next door to the church on M-68 in Burt Lake. The chicken is cooked in barbecue pits next to the Club building. Other food is cooked inside the building and dinners are served both in the building or as take-out orders.

While barbecued chicken began and remains as the cornerstone of the meal, other menu items have evolved over the years.

In the early years corn was cooked in hot sand with fire on top of the corn and sand. When it came time to pull the corn from the sand, men walked out on large planks and raked off the fire so the corn could be retrieved.

Ginop says it was quite a thing to see, but it was slow and when more and more people started showing up for the dinner, it was necessary for organizers to come up with a faster way to cook corn. Big pans were built to hold the sand and corn and that allowed the fire to be built beneath the corn. The fire had to be started the night before in order to get the sand hot enough. Eventually, the sand was abandoned and these days the corn is steamed.

Ginop’s father, Pastor Dale McAlvey, who was pastor of the Burt Lake Christian Church for more than 30 years came up with the recipe that is currently used for the chicken back in the 1960s. The chicken is barbecued over a hardwood fire that is started well before dawn on the day of the barbecue.

Biscuits are also homemade, using a recipe Betty McDonald had. McDonald’s daughter, Shirley Wixon, has carried on the biscuit making tradition. Wixon’s husband Skip has been making potatoes and gravy for many years.

As the dinner celebrates its 100th year there are families that have four to five generations of members that have helped with the dinner.

Ginop says she started waiting tables at the dinner when she was in junior high. “My grandchildren are now waiting tables. There are families that were involved in the first dinners so I’m sure there would be a fifth generation at least.”

Pastor Glenn McIntyre, who has been pastor of the church for the past several years, says that funds raised from the event keep the community club building going and are also important to the church.

The willingness of people to help makes the dinner possible.

“We could never do it with just our own church people,” McIntyre said. “Other people in the Burt Lake area help. It’s a lot of work, but people look forward to it every year.”

Ginop said she can’t believe that the people who started the dinner thought that it would go this long or grow into something that feeds so many people.