Forty-eight years ago, in 1966, an Orange Beach tradition, the annual Orange Beach Fire and Rescue "Cookout on the Coast," was born.
In the early years, pork was slow cooked over open stone pits, and firemen used shovels to rake the coals and turn the meat in the heat of the summer sun and flames. A bit later, the Department commissioned the largest available custom grill on three axles from Klose BBQ Pits in Houston, Texas. This is the same behemoth you would see belching out fragrant smoke in front of the Community Center on Canal Road today.
On June 14, 2014, I sat down and talked with Lt. Craig Stephenson, Orange Beach Fire Marshal, about the fundraiser. He spoke with pride about how the event draws people from miles around. Pre-sales are made months in advance after approximately 15,000 mail kits, each containing five tickets, are sent out to regular subscribers year after year. Craig said it is not unusual for him to come into the office and be greeted by large stacks of incoming mail containing checks for whole pork butts.
In addition to bringing in funds to support the Department generally, this year the proceeds will also go to the Department’s new Resident Firefighter program. In January of 2014, twelve young men and women from several states, including Kansas and Illinois, were selected to be a part of this training program in Orange Beach. In exchange for their services and contributions to improving the standard of care our first responders offer to the community, they are provided with intensive training and certification. The funds from the BBQ will help to defray their living expenses, equipment, and tuition while they receive this education.
As usual, this year’s barbecue was a great success. As of the latest update on their Facebook page, Orange Beach Fire and Rescue had sold out of every last pork butt. The forty-ninth Annual Barbecue is set for the second Saturday in June of 2015. Mark your calendars now!