GERRY – If you ever get frustrated with making out your weekly grocery list, try to imagine what head chef Bruce Gustafson faces as he prepares his order for the more than 3000 dinners that he and his crew will serve over four days next week as part of the Gerry Fire Department’s 76th annual PRCA rodeo, August 4-7.
Heading his list of more than 100 different items are 4500 pounds of beef, 1800 pounds of potatoes, 80 gallon of corn, 120 pounds of cottage cheese, as well as 64 gallons of tomato sauce and 250 pounds of sugar to be used in creating the “secret recipe” barbeque sauce. The list goes on to include the vegetables for the tossed salad, ice cream, dinner rolls, serving trays, napkins, coffee cups, and many more items that are necessary to make the dinners possible. His list also includes the supplies for the concession stands – hot dogs, hamburgers, rolls, French fries, condiments, fried dough, and soft drinks by Pepsi.
Most of the items are ordered through Maplevale Farms and, after delivery and inventory, Bruce’s work is just beginning. His day starts at 5:00 AM with getting the fires started in the pits and loading 800-1200 pounds of beef. He will spend the next eight hours checking and adjusting the cooking temperature by raking the coals in or out from under the meat. At the same time, he is making about 80 quarts of barbeque sauce. By mid-afternoon, volunteers arrive to begin slicing the beef and preparing other items for the dinner.
Meanwhile, Bruce’s wife Paula has recruited volunteers to arrive early morning to prepare the tossed salads and cut and “eye” the potatoes. A second crew of her volunteers arrive late afternoon to make the final preparations for serving the dinners, beginning at 5:00 each day. Fans then pick up their dinners and head for the air-conditioned dining area where Janice Rounds and her volunteers serve drinks and help make the dining experience a pleasant one. By 10:00 PM, the final cleanup is done and Bruce and Paula head home for a few hours of sleep before starting all over the next morning.
The dinners are served from 5:00 to 8:00 each day, Wednesday through Saturday. Bruce Gustafson says that everyone is aware that food prices have gone up, especially for beef, and the food bill for the rodeo had increased tis year by approximately $3500. He adds, however, that the dinner price has increased by only $1.00, which still makes the rodeo dinner a bargain as it includes the barbeque beef with sauce, kettle browned potatoes with gravy, corn, tossed salad, cottage cheese, roll, ice cream, and a beverage, with no tax or tip.
The dinners are just a part of this annual event which includes professional rodeo action with more than 200 cowboys and cowgirls from across the nation competing for $50,000 in prize money, a lighted midway with more than 20 vendors, and a free kids’ rodeo on Saturday afternoon.
Additional information is available at the website www.gerryrodeo.org or by phone at (716) 985-4847 or 1-888-985-4847. Pre-sale tickets are also available at reduced rates through August 1 by phone or online or at the Exit 12 Kwik Fill on Route 60 or at the Country Fair stores in Gerry and Fredonia.