By Mitch Holt, Staff Writer
The Abilene Chamber of Commerce’s Military Service Committee will sponsor the 41st Annual World’s Largest Barbecue on Saturday at the Civic Center to honor the military personnel of Abilene and their families.
This tradition provides members of the National Guard, military reserves and Department of Defense civilians and their families with a free barbecue meal, gratitude and recognition for their service to the United States, said Gary Robinett, director of military affairs and education.
Food will be distributed from noon to 2 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m., and the meal is for military personnel and their families only. The Abilene Military Family of the Year, a family that is active and involved in the community, will be honored at the event as well.
An estimated 3,000 pounds of beef, 700 pounds of sausage, 300 loaves of bread, 500 gallons of iced tea and 300 gallons of beans will be served Saturday. Between 180 and 200 volunteers from the Abilene area will attend and help serve, performing tasks like serving food, cleaning tables, sweeping floors and cooking food.
Robinett said the number of military attendees depends on how many Abilenians are deployed and how many families will attend. Six thousand to 10,000 individuals have attended in the past.
However, the number will be difficult to judge this year because of the number of military personnel deployed to Iraq. Families are invited to attend the event, so the number won’t be too much smaller this year, he said.
Event planners said the barbecue is well-known in military communities across the country, and congressmen and generals are usually in attendance. Robinett said the Secretary of Defense called the Abilene Chamber of Commerce last week to thank the city of Abilene for putting on this event each year.
“This event is a great way to express our thanks to all active military and families for being apart of our community,” Robinett said.