Neither rain nor snow was going to stop the Lee School Chicken BBQ.
Parents of Lee Elementary School students put on the 61st annual chicken barbecue Friday at the school.
Despite the inclement weather, the tradition carried on with gusto as parents cooked chicken all day outdoors, while others stayed inside preparing beans, potato salad and dessert.
“If you’ve tasted the chicken, you’ll want to come back,” said Kelly Thomason, the barbecue chair of Lee’s Parent Teacher Organization.
The near constant precipitation early Friday did not stop the barbecue volunteers, who were cooking the chicken outside K-State’s poultry barn.
But organizers were prepared, Thomason said, and dads of current and former students covered the barbecue pits Friday morning.
Barbecuers ran into rain a few years ago, as well, and built covers for their barbecue pits.
Craig Graves, who has helped prepare chickens for the event for five years, said the chickens took a bit longer to cook because of the colder temperatures, but they stayed safe from rain and snow.
Graves said it was still fun to cook with dads who volunteer every year — some for more than two decades.
“Their kids have graduated through college, but they still come back and cook every year,” Graves said.
Thomason and Graves both said the event always draws volunteers every year because they still want to contribute to the community and to the school.
“We have 15 dads that cook all day,” Thomason said. “Some of them don’t even have kids at the school anymore. It’s just a tradition for them.”
Luckily for organizers, the rest of the preparation and the dinner itself took place indoors.
Planning for the event, which raises money for the Parent Teacher Organization, actually begins early in the summer with the search for donations of both money and food.
A donation from the K-State Federal Credit Union covered much of the food cost this year, Thomason said, but parents and families also donated pies and cobblers for dessert.
Overall, Thomason said the event requires 30 industrial sized cans of beans, 250 pounds of potato salad and 300 chickens, not to mention 600 pounds of charcoal to cook the meat.
The event takes a lot of manpower, but Lee’s principal, Dr. Nancy Kole, said it’s not difficult to get people to volunteer.
“It’s a fundraiser, but equally important is the community aspect,” Kole said.
Kole is in her 13th year at the school, and said she has alumni contact her every year to reserve chickens or have food delivered.
Kole said the dedication of volunteers, many who continue to help long after their children have left the school, also shows how much people care about the event.
“Every school has traditions,” she said, “and this is probably our oldest and our best.”