Rain or shine, Saturday’s 55th Annual Shelter Island Fire Department Chicken Barbecue will go on as scheduled, according to Chief Anthony Reiter. A large tent at Fireman’s Field will shelter attendees from what could be occasional rain if the early forecast is correct.
Fire Department members will be barbecuing enough chicken for 2,000 people to accommodate last minute walk-ins who haven’t bought their tickets ahead, according to the chief.
Last year the department under Chief Reiter’s leadership made the decision to hit the 2,000 mark in order to avoid under-estimating attendance at the time-honored and popular community feast.
Besides preparing all that chicken, what else is on the menu? The usual, the chief said. That’s 70 bushels of corn, 300-400 pounds of potato salad made by both department and auxiliary members, watermelon and cold drinks.
It’s about the food, but maybe more importantly, the annual August event is an opportunity for many Islanders to catch up with friends and neighbors they may not have had a chance to see this summer.
When the chicken barbecue celebrated its 50th year, there were suggestions that despite the approximately $25,000 the event brings in for the Fire Department to help offset costs for equipment, the work involved took many man-hours and perhaps it was time to replace the barbecue with something less intensive. But that was an issue that had been raised before and then forgotten when it came time to plan the next year’s event.
When Chief Reiter came in last year, he pledged he and his leadership team would keep the event going for at least another six years and hope it would be ongoing for many more.
The long history of the chicken barbecue started with the Heights Fire Department in the years before the Heights and Center combined forces in the 1990s.
It takes close to a week of setting up the feast, serving and then dismantling it. Then firefighters and auxiliary members go back to the Center to set up for the annual Country Fair that occurs this year on August 25.
This year’s barbecue will include a bounce house for children attending, according to Chief Reiter.
As usual, department members welcome those who would like to volunteer to assist with the setup of tables and chairs beginning Saturday at 9 a.m. and then helping during the event by taking tickets, serving food and after all guests have departed, assisting with cleanup.
Volunteers don’t have to work the entire day, but whatever time you might give would be appreciated.
Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children and, as always, if you can’t stay to eat, takeout is available.