ROCK BRIDGE: Rock Bridge Elementary chicken barbecue serves 2,000 meals

Sunday, October 9, 2011 | 5:27 p.m. CDT; updated 10:34 p.m. CST, Monday, November 28, 2011

COLUMBIA — Chicken didn't come in a bucket at Rock Bridge Elementary School’s 54th annual chicken barbecue.

It did, however, come with pie and a hayride on a wagon drawn by mules — for those into that.

The school held its annual chicken barbecue Saturday, served nearly 2,000 meals and made about $20,000 for the day, said PTA Treasurer Amy Buckley.

It was easily the school’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Buckley said.

“It’s a 54-year long-standing Columbia tradition,” said event co-chair Christi Farmer. “It brings the Rock Bridge family and the community together.”

Half a century ago, the event started as a pie supper, said Assistant Principal Ryan Link.

While the pie is certainly not downplayed — a room is devoted solely to cutting and plating pies — the supper has evolved into something more.

It required the assistance of more than 200 parents and community volunteers, said PTA President Elizabeth Mottaz. At 6:30 a.m. Saturday, a number were at Rock Bridge to start cooking chicken in the pits behind the school.

The barbecue had a carnival-like atmosphere with 11 game stations around the school, as well as live and silent auctions. The hayride, brought back after an absence of several years, was a highlight, courtesy of MU's College of Veterinary Medicine Mule Club.

Energy and excitement was everywhere — even on the yellow school buses that shuttled families from the event parking to Rock Bridge.

“Mom, when are we leaving?” echoed around the bus from several young voices.

A murmur of reassuring responses would follow. “We have to wait for the bus to fill up, sweetheart,” and “I know you’re excited.”

“Don’t worry, honey,” a mother said to a particularly concerned child, “we’re not going to miss it.”

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