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Volunteers help make Beef Empire Days possible

Published 5/31/2011 in Beef Empire Days

By JEROME P. CURRY

jcurry@gctelegram.com

Garden City's Darinda Gerber, Beef Empires Day volunteer, remembers when the Cattlemen's Steak Cook Out at Beef Empire Days served hamburger.

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Brad Nading/Telegram
Members of the Southwest Kansas Cattlewomen organization work the assembly line to fill meals for the 2010 Beef Empire Days Roto-Mix CattlemenÕs Steak Cookout at the Finney County Fairgrounds. The meal consisted of a barbecued steak, baked beans, roll and iced tea.

Brad Nading/Telegram Members of the Southwest Kansas Cattlewomen organization work the assembly line to fill meals for the 2010 Beef Empire Days Roto-Mix CattlemenÕs Steak Cookout at the Finney County Fairgrounds. The meal consisted of a barbecued steak, baked beans, roll and iced tea.

"It really was a hamburger feed. Roto-Mix took it over, and they started preparing steak. It's top of the line," she said and laughed. "That was good. All we had to do then was show up and serve the food."

Gerber is a member of the Southwest Cattle Women, who serve the meal at the now Roto-Mix Cattlemen's Steak Cook out, which this year is at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday on opening day of the Beef Empire celebration.

Barbara Salinas, another Beef Empire Days volunteer, will be up early on June 11 for the Commerce Bank Chuckwagon Breakfast in Stevens Park.

"We get started about 5 a.m.," Salinas said. "This is my third year. Serving starts at 6:30 a.m."

She is an administrative assistant at Commerce Bank. She said the bank's board and the board of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) will be helping serve the pancakes and sausage. Renee Crittenden, CASA's board president and a Commerce Bank staffer, will be one of the servers. Proceeds go to CASA.

"We do have an assembly line," Gerber said of the steak cookout near the Finney County Fairgrounds grandstand.

"Start with the steak, beans and rolls. Put five women on each side and they keep the plates coming."

Hundreds, she estimated, are fed at that Beef Empire Days opening festival of steak.

In addition to the steak to which Gerber referred, the Cattle Women also sell cookbooks.

Gerber has volunteered to do more than just serve beef over the years.

She noted she has been a vice president and president of the Beef Empire Days board. Because of that, she said, she hasn't been as active on the serving line as she has in the past. She has ridden on the Board of Directors float in the parade, which will be at 10:30 a.m. June 11, downtown.

"Once, I got to drive a little red convertible and that was cool," Gerber said of her parade experiences.

She also has volunteered and worked with the chuckwagons in the park community feed just after the parade.

"Chuckwagon has changed over the years," Gerber said. "It was a competition at first. We always had a chuckwagon in that. Then we got to giving the big community feed. Sometimes 2,000 people would stop by Stevens Park after the parade. They would come directly to the park after the parade."

Those patrons this year will stop at each wagon and sample a new cut of beef before moving on to the next one.

She said she and Lori Carter were at one point the co-chairs of Chuckwagons in the Park. Brian Price is the chairman this year.

The community feed wagons start moving in about the time Salinas and her fellow breakfast volunteers are packing up and moving out.

As Salinas said, they arrive early before sunrise the day of the parade. Flapjacks and beef sausage are the menu. It's all you can eat for $2. Plymell Bank provides the free milk.

"I like (coffee) strong early in the morning, pancakes and beef sausage," Salinas said. "We go out with trays of pancakes to the people at the tables, and we just keep serving."

She remembers Gov. Sam Brownback — then U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback — stopping by.

"That was two years ago," Salinas said. "Sam Brownback was our guest pancake flipper. He actually flipped pancakes. Sam Brownback cooked for us."

Beef Empire Days volunteers seem to form a lasting bond, Gerber and Salinas suggested.

"I look forward to seeing them every year," Gerber said. "It is mainly the dedication of the people who continue to do it. People getting together and talking about the industry is always good."

"It's fun," Salinas said. "I think everyone looks forward to it."

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