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Published: Saturday, 1/22/2005

Big crowd is game for Fulton County sportsmen's supper

BY VANESSA WINANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Chrissy McOscar, 11, of Napoleon joins more than 250 people dining on muskrat, elk, and other items at the event. Chrissy McOscar, 11, of Napoleon joins more than 250 people dining on muskrat, elk, and other items at the event.
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WAUSEON - In a country awash in fast foods, fad foods, and frozen foods, it is somehow comforting just to know the Fulton County Sportsmen Club still holds an annual supper featuring the fruits of its members' labor.

The supper is held in the club's building, just north of Wauseon's strip of convenience stores, fast-food restaurants, and Wal-Mart.

Its location seems symbolic, because to step inside is to enter another world, especially on Coon Supper night.

A large, somewhat dusty, stuffed beaver sits atop one of the coat racks. High on the hall's walls, heads of various quadrupeds eye visitors. Orange banners welcome hunters to the club.

And at 7 p.m., two hours into the event, hundreds of people, mostly men, mostly wearing ball caps, and a fair number clad in plaid, are occupied with the serious work of eating.

A smiling man approached the buffet line expectantly, and the women of the club were ready.

"Squirrel?" one asked him.

"Yes," he said.

"Roast pork?" she continued, hand already on the tongs.

"Uh-huh," he answered.

"Pheasant?" another asked as he passed into her territory.

"I'll have some of that!" he said, beaming.

He nodded and agreed his way through the rest of the offerings: roast beef, raccoon, venison, meatloaf, and muskrat. Oh, and green beans, too. He was too late for the elk, beaver, and rabbit; the earlier crowd polished off those.

By 8 p.m., upward of 250 people have paid the $17 admission fee, which is used for the buildings's tax and insurance bills.

The kitchen is hopping. Rick Snow, a former club president, chopped up roasts as more hungry men filed by.

Another former president, Bill Kirkendall, took a break near the open door. After 14 hours in the kitchen, the frigid air feels good.

Not all of the food is actually hunted, he said.

The club bought the elk and pheasant, plus the beef and pork.

The other game does come from hunters. Nearly all of it is roasted or braised, the only practical way to cook such quantities.

Mr. Kirkendall, whose father belonged to the club when members bagged only raccoons, said a lot of people who come to the supper try everything.

Other folks stick to their favorites, in his case, venison.

"Elk, I don't like it, myself," he confessed.

The club is one of the few left that still does this kind of supper, said Vice President Larry Helberg.

"Very few clubs want to go to the effort," he said. "It takes a lot of work to bring it off, 40 to 45" workers.

Bobbie Roth is one of them.

The middle school worker spends her days cooking for 400 children, she said as she dried some flatware, so the labor at the club is nothing she's not used to. Ms. Roth particularly loves the meatloaf, acknowledging that she usually takes home a few slices.

The meatloaf, which takes 160 pounds of beef, is a special recipe.

Everyone at the supper swears by it. When a visitor in the kitchen tries it, activity slows until the verdict is in.

"Well?" Mr. Snow asked.

The chewing visitor gave it a thumbs up. Mr. Snow laughed and looked satisfied.

Out in the dining room, the crowds continued to eat and talk and smoke under the trophy heads, and it all could not be further from corporate America.

Contact Vanessa Winans at:

vwinans@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.



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