The Sunbury Lions Club is gearing up for its annual Ox Roast fundraiser on Labor Day.

Since 1944, rain or shine, the Ox Roast has taken place, with a flea market and arts and crafts added in 1965. The hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The annual event attracts 8,000 to 10,000 visitors to Sunbury’s Square.

According to the Lions’ website, half a ton of beef is pit-cooked; with 3,000 sandwiches; 120 pounds of potato salad, 100 pounds of coleslaw; 30 cases of soft drinks; 70 pounds of baked beans; and 100 pies sold. For the early arrivals, breakfast is served, too.

The town hall is where much of the food is prepared, and the village also furnishes barricades around the area.

Sunbury Lions Club member and former director Glenn Evans has been associated with organization for 50 years. When he joined, there was nearly 100 members. Now, there’s 30 to 35 members, and there’s physical limitations for some of the older members.

“We’ve used Big Walnut cheerleaders, the Big Walnut FFA, BW Music Boosters Association and the Boy Scouts,” Evans said of the Ox Roast assistants. “What we’ve done this year is we’ve really engaged more of these groups for their time and talents. It makes a community project for them as well as helping us. It’s very labor intensive. Old arms and old legs don’t work as well as young ones do when it comes to setting up tables and knocking down equipment. That helps fill the voids.”

Evans believes service organizations are experiencing a membership drain in recent years. He feels the club will continue, but this is a time of transition.

“It was considered a prestigious thing that you were invited to join a service organization, and it’s a hard concept today,” he said. “It’s not that they’re bad people, it’s just a different time. I think we’re going through a metamorphosis — how do we continue?”

In addition to Labor Day, the Sunbury Lions has also sold Christmas trees on the Square for 20 or more years, a fundraiser that includes unloading 400 trees and setting them up. There’s also a cruise-in on Sept. 30.

Evans said the Lions have long been associated with the visually-impaired, since being approached by Helen Keller not long after its founding. The Sunbury Lions has provided payments for vision tests and eyeglasses to students in the Big Walnut and Olentangy Local school districts. They have also provided scholarships for Big Walnut students, food pantry funding for Big Walnut Friends Who Share, and helped clean up after the Parade of Homes.

“There’s several different opportunities to volunteer and feel like they’re contributing to the community — there’s fraternal organizations, service clubs where you can see direct results from some of the work you do,” Evans said. “Not everyone is suited for it, if you don’t feel that sense of servant leadership. If you feel rewarded or recognized internally for doing the right thing for other people, the Lions (Club) would be a good fit for most people.”

The Sunbury Lions meet every second and fourth Monday from September through April at 6:30 p.m. at the Sunbury Eagles Building, 235 N. Columbus St. Members will pay the cost of the $10 dinner for guests. There will be a program or speaker starting at 7:15 p.m. and lasting 30 minutes.

Locals dine at last year’s Lions Club Ox Roast in Sunbury. dine at last year’s Lions Club Ox Roast in Sunbury. Gary Budzak | The Sunbury News

By Gary Budzak

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Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.