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The bright yellow signs pop up in yards across Shelby County near the opening of hunting season. They announce the annual Wild Game Feast sponsored by Centenary United Methodist Church, a fund-raising event for their youth activities.
If you’ve ever wondered if they really serve wild game, or if anyone really wants to eat it, you might stop by Floral Hall at the Shelby County Fairgrounds on Saturday night and see for yourself.
“We serve wild game brought by hunters from around the community,” says Steve Meador, one of the originators of the event. “We prepare a wide variety of dishes, each of them taste tested by event-goers.
“We started off looking through wild-game recipe books. Then we’d make our own additions and changes to our dishes ‘til we got just the right taste.
“We decide on the menu based on what people have enjoyed at past events. If a new recipe doesn’t go over well, we let that go and try something different the next time.”
Kurt Smith, another church member, also helps with the event.
“A crowd favorite is the dove bites done on the grill,” he said. “We add more and more dove each year, and we always run out. I think we are going to have someone stand over that serving pan and oversee how many dove bites people take. They’re that popular. And that good.”
They do serve wild game, though in recent years, the food hasn’t been too exotic. “We’ll serve venison meatloaf, pheasant divan, dove bites, wild turkey,” Meador said. “New to the menu this year is catfish. We try to serve what people like. There are sides and desserts, too.
“For the faint of stomach, we’ll have pulled pork from Cattleman’s, and there’s a children’s menu with kid-friendly food.”
There was a time when diners could find a few exotic dishes on the menu. “At one time, we might serve twenty to thirty different dishes,” he said. “It depends on what people bring in. I’ve tried antelope, wild boar, even bear! The bear has a really strong flavor; it’s pretty gamey and pungent.”
Joan Brown has been known to bring in the most exotic dishes. “She served beaver tail one year, with a barbeque sauce. It wasn’t bad!” Meador said.
‘Fowl with Al’
The Wild Game Feast started as a small supper held in the dining room of Centenary. “Our youth group grew to forty or fifty young people; it grew really fast,” Meador recalls. “There were so many good activities for the youth to get involved in, but financing the program was a challenge.
“Early during hunting season, I looked in my freezer and noticed it was full of different meats that I’d hunted. I thought – hey, maybe we can cook this up for a church supper and raise funds for the youth.”
“I got together with Al Brown and we started tossing around names. We came up with ‘Fowl with Al!’ It stuck.”
The first Fowl with Al event became an annual church supper attended, for the most part, by church members. After the first few years, members started bringing their friends. They outgrew their space, and Steve and Al involved more people from the church to put on the event. Now the event is held in the Floral Hall, and it is a major fundraiser for youth activities and mission projects.
According to Matt Bell, director of youth ministries at Centenary, the young people are involved in local mission activities offering service around Shelbyville through Impact Shelby.
“Our high school students go on a mission trip each summer,” he said. “Last year we helped with rural home repair through Appalachian Service Project.”
There is talk of taking the young people to an international mission site in the next year or two. This fundraiser helps defray the costs to youth to participate in these trips.
“In addition to the meal, we’ll have both live and silent auctions with over fifty items for bidding,” Bell said. “There are local hunting trips, a fishing trip to Lake Cumberland, gift-baskets from local merchants. There are some good items in the auction.”
Musician Tom Hood will also be on hand to provide dinner music. “This is a fun event for the whole family,” Meador said,
“I enjoy seeing the turnout of so many people from the community,” Smith said. “Friends and neighbors, co-workers, people from all across the community enjoy this feast. We’ll feed about 300 people on Saturday night.”
Wild Game Feast
WHAT:Wild-game dinner to raise money for youth, missions at Centenary United Methodist Church
WHEN:6 p.m., Saturday
WHERE:Floral Hall, Shelby County Fairgrounds, Shelbyville
TICKETS:$12 per person, $25 for a family of four (two adults and two children)
MORE INFORMATION:Contact Matt Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 633-4510