Birdville Troop 186's chicken barbecue planned for Sunday
Maybe it's the secret sauce. Or maybe it's the Boy Scouts taking turns donning a chicken costume that accounts for the longevity of the annual Birdville fall barbecue, now celebrating its 15th year.
The Scouts' fundraiser Sunday at Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Harrison not only raises money but teaches them to work together in the fast-paced barbecue.
They serve up 1,000 half chickens.
The secret of their success?
“First, it's really good chicken,” said Bob Barrage, 56, Scoutmaster of Troop 186, who lives in the Birdville section of Harrison.
Although sometimes referred to as the Birdville Boy Scouts, the troop draws Scouts from all four of the Alle-Kiski Valley's counties, Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler and Westmoreland.
The main course of the barbecue dinner is a half chicken, marinated in a brine, baked, then finished off on an outdoor grill and slathered with a homemade barbecue sauce — all for $8.50.
“The development of the secret sauce just kind of happened,” said Norm Walters of Tarentum, a troop committee member.
“We just kept playing with the recipe, working with some great ingredients like locally produced honey from Fawn Township,” he said.
The rest of the dinner has a local touch with a roll from Vibo's Bakery in Brackenridge, complemented by a chaser of barbecue sauce, homemade coleslaw and a modestly sized Tootsie Roll. Home-baked goods are available for purchase.
“The Scouts really do a tremendous job and the whole troop contributes,” Barrage said.
Rotating Scouts help to transport chickens to the grill, wrap and bag the cooked half birds with the trimmings and serve patrons — and wear a chicken suit.
Advertising the fruits of their labor is part of the Scouting experience for the Birdville barbecue.
“The chicken suit is really hot and the kids can't stay in there long,” Barrage said.
It can be an active stint as the Birdville chicken often is seen running around the lawn of the Blessed Sacrament Church chased by another Scout with a foam ax.
Also making the rounds is the “chicken-mobile” carrying the baked chicken to the outdoor grills via a golf cart modified with plywood wings and a plastic chicken head.
“Ah, the pageantry of it all is fun to watch,” Barrage said.
The kitschy but very real barbecue is by design and has developed into the Scouts' largest annual fundraiser through the generosity of the community, creativity of the Scout leadership, and troop power.
To fundraise 20 years ago, the troop's spaghetti dinners were OK, Walters said.
“But we were looking for something a little more fun to hold,” he said.
Then, some area residents bestowed three large, custom-made, stainless steel grills and the Birdville barbecue was born.
Better than a hoagie fundraiser, the Scouts speculated correctly that a barbecued half chicken would make for a hearty meal at a good price.
The Birdville barbecue subsidizes the troop's weeklong summer camp at the Heritage Reservation Boy Scout camp in Farmington. Each Scout qualifies for a discount that he can only use if he goes to camp and pays on time.
As with most Scout activities, there is a lesson to be learned.
“The importance of involvement is the Scouts recognize they are making next year's camp more affordable for them,” Barrage said. “It's interesting; you don't get money out of the sale because you participated,” he said. “You get money because you're a member of the troop and you paid on time. There are no cheaters.”
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or email@example.com.