South Zanesville Fire Department celebrates 60th chicken dinner, thanks community


By Staff Report

Local first responders are celebrating their diamond anniversary of selling chicken dinners to the community.

South Zanesville Fire Department members along with their booster organization hosted the sixtieth consecutive yearly event Sunday to crowds of hungry patrons.

Chief Russell Taylor said that even with adding additional supply this year, the demand has continued to grow causing long lines and quick sell-outs.

Each year the booster organization puts on the event to raise funds that later benefit the community through direct sponsorship of area children and gear for local firefighters.

Go to any sporting event from a Maysville basketball game to a biddy league tournament and you’re likely seeing the benefit of funds raised by the chicken dinners, money donated by the boosters to benefit the youth of the community.

From the oldtimers who have been assisting with the dinners for nearly five decades to the new generation of helpers, one theme was constant Sunday, it was all about the children.

Taylor said the event brings pride to those who help work it because they know the benefit it has in the following year, donations that matter to the teams that receive them.

The biggest fundraiser of the year also buys firefighting equipment such as safety gear, Taylor explained, devices and material that help protect the lives of first responders.

“We do it for the community,” Taylor said “People get to meet us, have a familiar face should we ever respond to one of their emergencies and it’s a great bonding event for our members.”

Started six decades ago, the fundraiser has continued to hold true to the principles it was founded on “support the kids and the community.”

Mike Murphy was all but a young kid when his parents and about a dozen others started the booster organization.

While all the original founders have now passed, the succeeding generations have kept the event alive and well.

Murphy estimates he’s been doing the dinners for around 50 years or so now, with no plans of stopping anytime soon.

“I just like doing it,” Murphy said. “It’s for the kids, the community, it’s just a great thing.”

Another oldtimer, David Moody, says he started in either 1972 or 1973, placing him at either 48 or 49 years of consecutive service.

Moody says volunteering makes him feel good, saying that it’s so rewarding knowing that the funds raised will benefit the various sports teams.

In the past the event sold as many as 2,500 half-chickens, a number Taylor and everyone else would like to see someday surpassed once again.

This year 1,400 half-chickens were ordered, 100 more than last year, a modest growth that attempted to prevent what occurred last year when 45 minutes into the event they were sold out.

This year was no different, when they opened at 11 a.m. nearly 200 people were waiting in line at the fire station and 150 cars packed the parking lot to receive their meals to go.

Patrons had two options, preorder and receive a ticket to redeem Sunday or order at the event and hope there was still chicken left.

Taylor said many area businesses purchase a ticket for all of their employees, a token of appreciation that not only benefits their staff but helps the boosters raise funds.

The $10 dinners included a half-chicken, apple sauce, homemade coleslaw and roll which continued to be a big hit. Those waiting in line were overheard commenting on the delicious smell and their desire to devour their long-awaited meal.

Humidity affected the cook times of the chickens, resulting in some having to wait nearly an hour, but comments on the department’s Facebook page and in person echoed one thing, it was worth the wait.