He wouldn’t be fighting a fire, but rather starting one in the long pit behind the hall being prepped to cook 4,000 pork chops for the Scotsburn Fire Department’s annual barbecue.
As a longtime firemen, who held the position of chief more than once, MacLeod knows how important the 50-year tradition is to the department and community.
“I was at the first one they ever had,” he said. “It was in a farm yard. I remember being there and we just sat around after we baled the hay. I was probably 18. The pork producers held a barbecue after we finished baling and everyone thought it would be a good idea to have one around the pond to raise money for the fire department.”
Five decades later the tradition is continuing. Very little has changed over the years. It is always held the last Wednesday of July, it is always outdoors, a local pipe band is the entertainment and there is always ice cream for dessert.
Allan Fraser, current chief of the fire department, said the barbecue nets between $6,000 and $8,000 for the department annually which goes into its day to day operations, but what it does for such a small community is priceless.
“It is a fundraiser that brings the whole community together,” he said. “Everyone contributes to it. We just purchase the pork chops and the ice cream.”
He said little has changed over the 50 years, including the way the dinners are cooked and served. It’s two thick pork chops for an adult, one for child, with potato salad, roll and pickles as well as a card for ice cream that can be picked up after the meal.
Fraser said there was a time when the fire department would go door-to-door asking to borrow picnic tables residents but now they have their own so the preparation involved in the event has become much easier.
Both men agree the barbecue’s atmosphere around the Scotsburn pond is a big draw for people who arrive as early as 3:30 p.m. to line up for the 4 to 7 p.m. event, but aren’t sure if it is the community’s hospitality, ice cream or the thick chops with the special sauce that keeps them coming back.
“It has been the same (recipe for the) sauce for the last 50 years,” MacLeod said.
There have been three years in the last 50 that the weather was poor, but manageable. The department had to postpone it once and the other times they did it in the rain and still had about 1,700 attend.
“The highest we ever had was 2,400 about 10-12 years ago,” MacLeod said.
The barbecue is always close to selling out by the end, but if there are any chops left over after 7 p.m. people can purchase them in bulk.
As with any rural community, bringing people in is important but having them return year after year is an added bonus.
They say it is a barbecue that attracts people from all over the county and usually if a person goes once, they are guaranteed to come back the next year. They are also a stop on the barbecue circuit for people who use such events to catch up with people they haven’t seen over the winter.
“Some people follow the circuit,” said Fraser. “That is their outing. They go to Toney River and watch for all of the church functions.”
There are always the regulars who return faithfully to fill their plates and their bellies.
“We see some of the same people every year,” said MacLeod. “They come at 2 p.m. and they don’t leave till 6 p.m.”