Chicken Dinner for 1,100

There’s a science to preparing a take-out feast for a multitude of grilled-chicken lovers, and the Fredonia Lions

Fredonia Lions Club members Ron Weyker and Glen Moegenburg flipped chickens on the club’s 10-tray grill on Sunday. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

A driver pulled up to Ozaukee High School with two tickets for the Fredonia Lions Club biannual chicken roast on Sunday.

“I’ll buy two more,” he said.

Club members sprang into action to get the customer his four dinners. It wasn’t quite 10 a.m. when the roast was scheduled to start.

“That’s how this goes,” club treasurer and charter member Al Krier said.

The parking lot that had short orange cones creating a drive-through lane eventually became a zoo, he said, “but a happy zoo.”

The club sold 1,100 chicken dinners, drive-through only. Some utensils are on hand for emergencies such as the case of the hungry fellow who was driving by on Highway 57, saw the smoke and stopped in to eat.

The Lions, who recently moved the event from the fire department to the school after the department’s remodeling project, have the system down to a science. They’ve been holding two chicken roasts per year since 2002.

A ticket taker sits in a heated trailer outside, while several members roast chickens on a huge grill nearby.

The mashed potatoes and corn are made inside the school’s kitchen, and the gravy is poured into individual cups and the dinners are assembled into boxes in the gym. Lioness members bag them up with their homemade desserts near the school’s entrance.

Runners go back and forth, making deliveries to eagerly awaiting customers in cars parked out front.

Students from Ozaukee Middle School even help.

The club organizes several events each year, but the roasts are the biggies.

“This one we need everybody,” said Vern Bode, a Lion for nearly 30 years who was taking tickets on Sunday.

By comparison, an annual golf outing the club holds at West Bend Lakes, he said, only requires eight people.

The chicken roasts are among the Lions most profitable events, raising about $4,500 per roast.

Glen Moegenburg of the Town of Fredonia has been in charge of the fryers for years.

“The whole secret to frying chickens is don’t burn them, or don’t burn them to a crisp,” he said.

Moegenburg has meat thermometers to make sure each chicken is heated to the correct temperature.

He uses a 10-rack portable grill that was constructed for free by Gehl Co. in West Bend. Lions member and Gehl Co. employee Doug Davis had fellow employees make the stainless steel racks and steel sides.
Moegenburg got the grill idea as a fast way to raise money for his brother-in-law, who was paralyzed in a car accident years ago.

A former 4-H leader, Moegenburg said once his children graduated from high school he was looking for ways to meet people. He has been a Lion for 30 years and was district governor last year, leading 42 clubs.

Now, Moegenburg is on the Lions Global Action Team and helped lead an effort that donated a $200,000 flow cytometer that analyzes cells.

The Fredonia club raises about $22,000 per year, which all goes back into the community or for larger causes.

“All the money that comes in today goes back out. We do not keep a dime for administration. All Lions clubs are like that,” Moegenburg said.

Eyesight has historically been one of all Lions clubs’ biggest initiatives, and Fredonia’s district used its screening machine to test 454 students in the Northern Ozaukee School District, 45 of whom were referred to a doctor for a follow-up.

The Fredonia club also hosts two blood drives per year and a  pancake breakfast, rings bells for the Salvation Army at the Saukville Walmart and collects fruit and personal and household items for more than 120 baskets delivered to single senior citizens at Christmastime.

“For a group of 43 or 44 guys, we are very active,” Lions President and 28-year member Ralph Luedtke said.

The Fredonia club was formed in 1973 as a replacement to a businessman’s association. The Port Washington Lions Club sponsored the newly formed Fredonia club, and it took off.

Last year’s budget had 22 local causes and 11 Lions-related causes, Krier said.

Causes run the gamut and include scholarships, Ozaukee High School’s robotics program, the Ozaukee ambulance and a host of families with health issues from needing hearing aids and cataract surgery to treatment for cancer and kidney transplants. The club recently donated an iPad to a student who had learning and communication challenges.

Krier especially likes delivering the annual Christmas baskets.

“It’s always neat going to some of these folks’ doors. They give you a hug,” he said.

Larger-scope causes include Lions camp in Rosholt, seeing-eye dogs and natural disaster help.

“There’s not a whole lot we don’t do,” Moegenburg said.

Lions clubs were able to help people living near the Amazon River in South America who were going blind and needed vitamin A.

“The government was too inept to get it to them. The Lions did,” Moegenburg said.

Getting things done for the community is why Ludwig Miller — who always handles the mashed potatoes for the chicken roast — joined as a charter member in 1973. He had just moved to Fredonia from Wausaukee, where he was a Lion for three years.

“You get old soon enough without sitting around,” he said.

The Fredonia Lioness Club isn’t quite as old — it started in 2002 — but it already has new and veteran dedicated members. Each of its 15 ladies baked 75 pieces of dessert for the roast.

“It was a good way to meet the residents,” retired Fredonia postmaster and charter member Kris Schmit said.

Jenny Phillips and her husband Ken joined both clubs two years ago, after consistent prodding from Bode.

“I like helping,” Jenny said in between bagging up dinners.

Krier said, “I think it gives everybody a chance to feel like they’ve helped others in the community, and that’s really what it’s all about.”

Lions Club dinner meetings are held the fourth Wednesday at 5 Pillars Supper Club in Random Lake.

For more information, visit the club’s webpage at www.e-clubhouse.org/sites/fredoniawi/.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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