Traditions in York County are many, but one that is six decades old smells different. Yes, the smell southeast of Rock Hill this week means that the hams are slow cooking in the back of the Lesslie Volunteer Fire Department.
That means one thing: barbecue – 3,000 pounds of barbecue. A ton and a half. And that doesn’t count the slaw, beans, rolls, sauce, drinks and the thing that matters most in rural eastern York County – community and conversation.
The barbecue marks 59 years in a row this week for the department that started answering calls in 1955 and has never stopped. Not on all those Christmases and Thanksgivings, or any other day.
“After almost 60 years, I think we have it down right with the barbecue,” said Jerry Williams, who was chief for decades at Lesslie. “We do this every year to raise money to help people. Nothing complicated about it.”
Lesslie remains an all-volunteer department, so calls for service for fires and car crashes and cats up in trees and every other emergency is answered by a man or woman who is paid nothing.
The Lesslie district runs from Rock Hill’s city limits to the Catawba River, and includes almost 20,000 people whose homes and businesses depend on these rough and ready people to answer the call.
“We consider it a privilege to serve the community and offer them the best protection we can,” said Johnny Boyd, who is 58 years old and has been in the department since he was able to roll a hose. “Everyone here just wants to be a good neighbor, and help out people.”
The annual barbecue, York County’s oldest continual barbecue fundraiser, raises money for new equipment such as the Jaws of Life. The jaws are those cutters that can split a mangled vehicle or car in half to pull somebody out. The jaws save lives.
That’s the reason for the barbecue. But the greatness of it is the people and the food. The barbecue draws hundreds of cops, firefighters, EMS workers and others from all walks of life. People sit down and make friends.
Some years the volunteers have served as many as 3,000 people. Food is eaten at long tables where all are welcome. Friends are made. Stories are swapped. The food is pretty great, too.
“Nobody leaves here hungry,” said longtime Lesslie volunteer Wayne Reeves. “This here is pulled pork. Good stuff. Texas. Lou-isiana. They are good. But ours is the best.”
Want to go?
The 59th annual Lesslie Volunteer Fire Department barbecue is Friday and Saturday at the main station, 3191 Lesslie Highway, Rock Hill. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. until sold out on Saturday.
Plates are $8. Sandwiches are $4. Delivery is available for orders of 10 plates or more. Cash and checks accepted. No debit or credit cards.
For information or to pre-order call the station at 802-324-0828.