43rd Annual Hoback Volunteer Firefighters Picnic

Volunteers dish up ribs, beans and corn on the cob Saturday during the 43rd Annual Hoback Volunteer Firefighters Picnic at Astoria Hot Springs Park.

Hoback volunteer firefighters will be cooking up a mess of ribs Friday afternoon, but this year’s 44th annual fundraiser will have to forgo the socializing.

Rather than a big community event where everyone dines together on BBQ, beans and drinks, because of the coronavirus customers will drive up, get their frozen rack of ribs and drive away.

“Masks are required, and we’re asking people to stay in their cars and we’ll make the transactions from there,” firefighter and “rookie picnic organizer” Andrew Byron said.

Ribs will go on sale at 2 p.m. at the Hoback fire station until they’re gone. Byron predicts that will be at about 5 p.m. One rack is $25. Cash is preferred, but credit cards will be accepted.

Byron said the drive-by BBQ is the station’s way of hosting its traditional benefit but in a safer manner.

“This fundraiser is very important to us,” he said. “This is what provides us the equipment to do our jobs.”

Preparing the ribs is a big process. Last Friday, firefighters started cooking 1,500 pounds of meat at 5 p.m. — cooking, soaking them in BBQ, cooling, wrapping and freezing them — and finished at 5 a.m. Saturday.

“We expected to be done by midnight,” Byron said.

That’s just half what they dish out in a normal year. And without sides, drinks and silent auction items, Station No. 3 volunteers don’t expect to make even half what they usually do. They also don’t expect to have as much fun.

“We will miss the camaraderie,” he said.

But Byron said the team is happy to still be able to keep the tradition going. Some customers have come for decades and expect their ribs every summer.

“What is important to us is this is a big community event for Hoback,” Byron said.

Emily Mieure covers criminal justice and emergency news. She also leads the News&Guide’s investigative efforts. She has reported for WDRB TV in Louisville, Ky., WFIE TV in Evansville, Ind., and WEIU TV in Charleston, Ill.

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