Unionville cooks up community spirit at barbecue
Rain could not keep the barbecue lovers away from Unionville Elementary School for the 64th annual barbecue fundraiser.
After running out last year, this year faithful volunteers and cooks prepared 15,000 pounds of Boston butt for the hungry residents of Union County.
Principal Sharyn VonCannon said it was “overwhelming.”
“(It is going) as great as it could possibly ever go,” she said.
VonCannon said it is “humbling” to see the community and kids come out to support the school. She said some people coming have not had kids at the school in years or have no connections to the school.
This year, the community really helped out. VonCannon was worried because the preparation night fell on Halloween, and many parents would be out with their children. She said word of her concern spread, and high school students, maintenance workers, former parents, students from Wingate University and others came to help.
“(They) rallied around us like a family does,” she said.
For VonCannon, the community is like a family. She attended Unionville Elementary School, as did her parents.
“It means something to me,” she said.
Amidst the traffic and hubbub of the barbecue, the students at Unionville Elementary attended classes and the school day went on as usual, with the added aroma in the air.
VonCannon said she is often asked why it is not a teacher workday, but she said if the kids were home, parents would not be able to come out and volunteer.
“This tradition is only as good as the volunteers,” VonCannon said.
A new assistant principal at the elementary school told VonCannon that “until you see this operation, it’s hard to imagine,” she said.
Preparations began in earnest about two weeks before the day. Cooking began in the wee hours of Friday, on pits that had been smoldering since Thursday.
On average, the fundraiser brings in around $70,000 for the school. VonCannon said this year 7 percent of that will go to the building and maintenance, particularly a new roof.
Beyond that, the teachers will brainstorm what they need for instructional materials. VonCannon said she likes to keep the money raised in the personnel category.
Debbie Harcar, a custodian who lives in Unionville, volunteered for the first time Friday. Her daughter went to elementary school at Unionville, but this was the first year her schedule allowed her to volunteer.
“It’s kind of exciting,” Harcar said. She added that it is neat to see the community come together for all the preparation work.
As for the barbecue itself?
“It’s delicious. It’s excellent,” she said.
Marion Holloway of Monroe has been attending the barbecue since he was a kid. His dad attended the first barbecue in 1949.
He said he looks forward to the event every year and used to bring his two daughters along.
“(It is) not just the barbecue, (it is) the community atmosphere,” he said.
He said the Brunswick stew is a closely guarded recipe and some of the best he has tasted, apart from his wife’s.
In the past, he said, they served both lunch and dinner and he used to attend both meals.
“Hat’s off to all the people and all the hard work,” Holloway said.
The barbecue is held annually on the first Friday in November.