Church hosts, raises funds at Ground Hog Supper
By ANGIE HAFLICH
Despite the fact that it takes place a few days before Groundhog Day, the First United Methodist Church's annual Ground Hog Supper has little to do with the Feb. 2 celebration.
"Everybody says it's because of Groundhog Day, and we always tell them, 'No, it's ground hog.' It's whole hog sausage. We advertise everything but the squeal," Tim Miller, chairman of the United Methodist Men's group, said and laughed.
The Ground Hog Supper is such a longstanding tradition that it's difficult to pinpoint when it actually started.
Will Nichols, another member of the men's group that organizes the event every year, said he didn't know how long it had been going on.
"A long time," Nichols said.
Leo and Eldora Kleysteuber, along with their friend, Ethel Johnson, said they have been attending the supper for most of their lives.
"We did live south of town, and we'd come in for dinner, so I know it's been over 40 years," Eldora said.
It is believed that the event actually started some time after World War II. This year was the 65th recorded date of the event.
Miller said the dinners of sausage, potatoes, gravy, sauerkraut, apple sauce, biscuits and homemade pies serve between 1,000 and 1,300 people each year.
"There are a lot of things that influence that — the weather, when other people are having their ground hog suppers, the ball game tonight is going to affect us," he said.
"We usually have a big rush right at about 4:30, and then it calms down, and here a little after 5 it picks up and is steady for quite awhile, but most people are done by 7:30," he said.
As other men prepared the biscuits, gravy and potatoes, members of the men's group served guests. Miller said that while it's mostly men who prepare and serve the food, women members and volunteers provide homemade pies and desserts.
"We've got some JLC (Junior Leadership Corps) kids here that need public service hours or whatever, so we let them help serve and stuff," he said.
Wayne Goss, a Finney County farmer who raises hogs north of Garden City and helps serve the meal each year, has been providing the sausage for several years. This year, he said six hogs totaling 2,500 pounds were used for the supper.
"They weighed about 450 pounds each. They were big hogs," he said.
The whole hog, he explained, includes the loins, rump and shoulders, with all ground into fresh sausage.
"And it's seasoned, and Ehresman processes the pig with our recipe, and we pick it up and bring it here and we cook it," Goss said.
Miller said that the sausage takes several hours to prepare.
"We started this morning cooking the sausage at 7:30. They cook that in the morning, and then they put it into roasters and let it finish cooking in the roasters all day, and then the gravy, the potatoes and the biscuits are all being made in the kitchen right now," he said.
Eldora thought this year's batch of sausage tasted even better than last year's.
"It's got a little more spice in it," she said.
The bulk of the proceeds from the dinner, $6 for adults and $3 for children, go toward six college scholarships. The rest goes to different local organizations or to fund supplies for the church.
"It changes every year," Miller said, adding that it is usually distributed to wherever there is the greatest need at the time.