COLUMBIA — Burgers sizzled on a steaming grill Sunday as Jake Taggart, a member of the Masonic fraternal organization Aleppo Grotto, manned the grill and helped continue a long-standing history of volunteering at the Boone County Fair.
Taggart wore a fire-engine red apron identical to his father’s, with the exception of their first names stitched on the front in black. The food stand volunteers were packed into a blazing kitchen that smelled of sweet cornbread and homemade pulled pork.
George Harris, general manager of the fair, first asked the Grotto to help with the Boone County Fair in 1993, a year after the fair moved to Boone County Fairgrounds. The Grotto initially assisted with fair parking, but in 2010 the Grotto established a food stand that sells breakfast, lunch and dinner to fair workers and attendees.
“They provide a great group of people that work very hard — very responsible people, that’s hard to find,” Harris said.
The Aleppo Grotto is a Masonic fraternal organization, but the work the group does at the fair is family-oriented.
Chris Diehls volunteered in the food booth with her daughter, Cori, while her husband assisted fairgoers with parking. The Diehls have made volunteering a family event for the past two years.
Mitch Weinsting, grand master of ceremonies for the Aleppo Grotto, said volunteering is a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling you get from seeing a smile on a kid’s face,” he said.
The Grotto tries to donate most of the proceeds from the fair to local charities, including Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center and organizations that perform dental work for children with disabilities.
Harris said it would be difficult to put on the fair without the Grotto’s involvement.
“They have made a tremendous impact to the needs of the community,” Harris said.
Two years ago, Harris was asked to join the Grotto, an offer he was happy to accept.
“They do many great things for the community,” he said. "It was a privilege I could be asked to join, and maybe I could help in some small way.”