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Barbecue keeps Concord church running

Written by:  Lisa Thornton
Cabarrus News
Charlotte Observer
Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church will hold it's 64th annual barbecue.

While you and I were sleeping this morning, folks at Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church were likely loading hickory wood into towering black burn barrels while flames peaked over the tops.

By the time we had our coffee, they were arranging 12,000 pounds of pork in seasoned fire pits, to smoke until early tomorrow morning.

The church's 64th annual barbecue, on Poplar Tent Road just off Exit 52 on Interstate 85, begins at 10 a.m. Thursday and will continue until everything is eaten.

It'll likely go fast: pigs that have been resting over glowing hot coals, continuously stoked by men with long-handled shovels; freshly made slaw;

Brunswick stew; and the kind of homemade desserts only church ladies can make.

The reason for its success may be that it hasn't changed much in 64 years. Cooks still use the original sauce, a mixture of lemon, horseradish, mustard, vinegar and peppers. The Brunswick stew and slaw are still the same too.

“We haven't tweaked any of the recipes,” said Mike Smith, this year's chairman of the barbecue committee.

All these recipes can be found in the church cookbook, on sale at the event.

Years ago, the first barbecue was started by farmers who donated a few hogs and enough vegetables to fill a few pots with Brunswick stew.

Hickory trees were chopped down from a church member's land.

Back then, they would split the lumber with a little bit of dynamite. Today, a forklift unloads two tractor trailers of hickory as men ready with chainsaws wait to get at it.

Since that first barbecue, a few pots of Brunswick stew have turned into 588 gallons, a few hogs now weigh in at 12,000 pounds of chopped pork and a couple of pecan pies is up to about 30.

The money raised, close to $50,000 last year, goes to upkeep of the church, which was established in 1751.

“This old building takes a lot to keep it going,” said Smith.

The basement floors have been replaced regularly because of flooding. Improvements such as a new parking lot and handicap accessibility in buildings have been possible because of this event. Fifteen percent of the money raised goes to mission work, and other money has gone to helping with disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.

Despite its success, not every year has gone smoothly. There was the time the barbecue pits caught fire from dripping fat, charring a few pigs.

“It forced us to be a lot more careful,” said Smith.

Now the Concord Fire Department is there to help if a fire gets out of control.

Hurricane Hugo knocked out a few pits as well, but they've always been rebuilt, thanks to the Boy Scouts.

The 150 volunteers behind this event are determined each year to make it a success. They've had 64 years of practice getting it right.

Link to article:  http://www.charlotteobserver.com/848/story/1035031.html