BEVERLY -- Fire and 1,400 pounds of beef. It's grillmeister heaven.
"This is a thank you to the community for supporting 4-H," said West Virginia University Extension Agent Susan Triplett of this week's 37th annual Randolph County ox roast.
Scheduled for 4-7 p.m. Thursday at the Camp Pioneer 4-H facility in Beverly, this year's roast has a long heritage, Triplett added. The event began in 1963 as part of the West Virginia Centennial celebration.
In the roast's early days, the cooking process was particularly intense. A hardwood fire burned in an earthen pit until 24 inches of coals accumulated -- a process that took nearly a day.
The coals were covered with an inch of sand, Triplett said, before rounds of seasoned beef wrapped in foil and muslin were laid on top.
"After they put it all in, they put in wood slats that go across the meat and then cover it with sawdust," she added.
Under constant monitoring by volunteers, the pit reached the desired cooking temperature in about 12 hours. Another three hours at that temperature were needed to complete the job.
"After 24 years, in 1987, the crew decided there had to be a better way," Triplett said.
Since then, the crew has moved the operation to a fire-brick-lined concrete pit. Now, although the cooking process is about the same, the fire does not need to be built until the night before the roast.
However, the event still requires nearly 200 volunteers, Triplett said, to cook and serve the approximately 2,000 beef sandwich dinners purchased each year. Volunteers come from a number of organizations, including Randolph County Recreation Board, 4-H Leaders Association, Community Educational Outreach Services and the Beverly Woman's Club.
The $6 meal includes two deep-pit roasted beef sandwiches, cole slaw, baked beans, dessert and drinks. Drinks are not included for drive-through customers.
Tickets are available at the site or in advance at several Randolph County locations: WVU Extension Service office in Elkins, Southern States in Elkins, Liggett's Supply in Mill Creek, Campbell's Market in Beverly, C&J's Dairy King in Valley Bend and the Elkins Senior Center.
For more information about the roast, contact the WVU Extension Office at 304-636-2455.
Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1403.