BBQ brings in money for Gardiner Library

Hannah and Abigail Spilhaus made this raspberry-covered angel cake for the Gardiner Library fundraiser in memory of their dog Jake. Here Hannah is pictured with her pal Aedan Sennett. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Despite the threat of a looming storm, a surprising number of Gardinerites turned up for to the library’s annual Southern BBQ and Pie Auction. Revelers enjoyed a muggy calm before the rain really set in — Majestic Park was cloudy but rain-free on Aug. 27 just after 4 p.m.

“Strangely enough, it’s hardly rained here,” said Glen Gidaly, the president of the Gardiner Library Board.

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One advantage to having the barbecue in the park is the large wooden pavilion, which protects people scarfing down pulled pork and chicken.

Leslie Seff has come to the event year after year with her husband.

“We love the whole Southern grill thing,” she said. “It’s actually usually really well attended.”

In the five years it has existed, one thing the Gardiner Library Southern BBQ has been known for is the shenanigans. The pie auction has prompted some pretty silly behavior. Kids egg on their parents to bid higher and higher on their favorite cake or pie. Last year, one donor set a record by bidding $1,000 for a pie. That money goes to benefit the library.

For the most part, Seff said she likes the sense of community the event brings. “Mostly, neighbors come to see other neighbors,” she explained.

Brookside Farm, on Albany Post Road in Gardiner, has a huge hand in organizing the festival. It started as a family party years back for farmers Drew and Sharon Sycoff. Sharon comes from South Carolina originally, and her family still lives there. The barbecue started as a way for her and her husband to catch up with the Southern relatives.

In Rich Hill, SC — her hometown — the barbecue-pie-auction combo has been used as a successful fundraiser for years to support the local fire department. Apparently, success is catching.

Drew smiled wide when he talked about preparing for the meal along with a slew of library volunteers. “It’s a feast. It’s a feast — you enjoy it,” he said.

The food is cooked on a large Southern-style smoker grill. For barbecue-goers like Seff, that big grill is one of the thrills of coming.

“It looks like a locomotive,” she said.

The Sycoffs donate much of the food from the farm, but the pork comes roughly 750 miles north with Drew’s in-laws. The meat is slow-cooked at a low temperature for 20 hours before it is packed in ice and driven to Gardiner.

Library officials hope to use the money from the cake and pie auction to help pay down the new building’s mortgage. Right now, there’s about $750,000 left to pay back to the bank. Gardiner Library officials have already put a $138,000 dent in the original debt.

“People bid astronomical sums for the cakes and pies because they want to support the library,” Library Board President Gidaly said. “So this is one of our major fundraisers.”

Hurricane Irene’s approach to New York State did put the library volunteers on the edge of their seats. “Well, it’s been a very exciting morning,” the board president said.

However, the barbecue’s 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. hours of operation put the celebration well outside of the threat of major winds and worrisome heavy rains. In fact, Hurricane Irene did not have really any impact at all on the celebration, nor did it dampen the spirits of the bidders at the auction. Someone again bid $1,000 for a dessert.

Library officials estimated that they raised about $6,000 again this year, which is in line with previous years at the Southern BBQ and Pie Auction.

For more information about the library, head to www.gardinerlibrary.org.

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