DANVILLE —Community members are invited to grab a barbecue pork sandwich lunch for 50 cents and pet some farm animals next week at Danville Area Community College.
Children and adults, including farmers and city dwellers alike, will find a variety of activities available from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 21, during Ag Day 2017, which will take place in the east side of Harry J. Braun Technology Center and the Mary Miller Gym on DACC’s campus.
Ag Day is free and open to the public, except for the farmer’s price barbecue sandwich lunch for 50 cents.
The event, which marks its 40th year this year, is hosted by DACC’s Ag Club, with the support of area agricultural organizations, businesses and individuals.
Agriculture instructor Craig Potter has organized Ag Day for the last 20 years. He said the event started out as Farm/City Day in 1977.
Four decades later, the annual event consistently draws 1,600 to 1,800 people for the 50-cent barbecue pork sandwich lunch and about 1,500 children to pet and view the farm animals.
“We usually have at least 1,500 children, but this year it will be down,” Potter predicted.
Potter expects fewer schoolchildren will visit the barnyard petting zoo provided by the Armstrong-Potomac FFA chapter this year because the rural schools in Vermilion County are scheduled to dismiss early for a school improvement day.
Still, Potter is relying on the DACC Ag Club members and FFA students from high schools all over the area, including chapters at Armstrong-Potomac, Oakwood, Salt Fork and Shiloh, to help make the annual event a success.
“Students help serve the meals,” he said. “We will still feed 1,600 to 1,800 people a 50-cent lunch.”
Potter said he and some of the DACC Ag Club members will work the day before the event to prepare for the farmer’s price lunch by washing and cleaning everything, getting the tables set and setting up 31 or 32 18-quart roasters.
“We’ll have everything set up Thursday afternoon,” he said.
Potter and the DACC Ag Club members then will return to the Mary Miller Gym at 7 a.m. the day of the event to get the barbecue going.
This year, DACC Ag business and accounting student Demetrius Tyler of Tyler’s Q will provide 600 pounds of barbecued pork butt.
Teasdale Foods of Hoopeston provides the beans for the baked beans, and Walmart will provide the bottled water.
“We will have Ag students here helping him (Tyler) move the meat in and opening the cans of beans,” Potter said.
The pulled pork barbecue sandwich lunch — which is certain to draw a crowd once again — is probably the most popular feature of the event.
The 50-cent lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Mary Miller Gym, and the Ag Club members will keep the lunch lines flowing smoothly. Carryout lunches, however, will not be available.
The lunch will consist of a pulled pork barbecue sandwich, applesauce, baked beans, potato chips and milk, pop or water and will be served for 50 cents — the price the farmer usually receives for these products after producing and selling them.
Donations beyond 50 cents are also welcome.
The lunch used to cost 35 cents 20 years ago when Potter took over the event, but the current 50-cent price hasn’t been raised in more than 10 years.
At 50 cents, the lunch is not meant to be a money maker but rather a community service to show the role of agriculture in the community.
“For a while it was 35 cents, but we changed it to 50 cents because it’s easy change to make,” Potter said.
During the 20 years Potter has been involved with Ag Day, he’s had some interesting experiences putting on the event, such as the year when the electrical panel box in the gym was overloaded and blew after multiple roasters were set up in hallways throughout the Mary Miller Complex.
Potter said he also has simplified the baked beans recipe over the years.
“We pour in brown sugar, ketchup, (real) bacon bits and onion flakes,” he said.
“When I first took over the event, one of the baked beans recipes called for 30 pounds of bacon, which my wife and I fried at our home,” he recalled. “We did that for three hours.
“One year I chopped bags and bags of onions and put them in a cooler for the event the next day,” he said. “We got busy the day of the event and forgot about the onions. A week later someone smelled something and found the cooler . . . with the onions still in it . . . in a closet at Mary Miller.”
In addition to the barnyard petting zoo and 50-cent lunch, other activities offered during this year’s Ag Day will include pedal tractor pulls for children hosted by the Salt Fork FFA in the automotive section of the technology building, and tractor and farm equipment displayed around the technology center.
Many local schools and day care centers bring children to the Ag Day activities, with FFA students taking the children on tours through DACC’s ornamental horticultural building, the technology center and the college’s state-of-the-art greenhouse.
“They all get a marigold and agriculture-related coloring book,” Potter said.
Agriculture businesses and community organizations, including Birkey’s from Hoopeston, Chrisman Farm Center, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Vermilion County Soil and Water Conservation District, also will have exhibits of tractors, loaders and planters as well as informational booths set up in the Mary Miller Gym, Potter said.
Ag Day 2017 is set for 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 21, in the Harry J. Braun Technology Center and the Mary Miller Gym on the Danville Area Community College campus.
The event is free and open to the public, except for the farmer’s price barbecue sandwich lunch for 50 cents. Schools and daycare providers that are bringing children to the petting zoo and other Ag Day activities should call 443-8768 to make reservations.