Waterford FFA says ‘thanks’

WATERFORD-With sleepy smiles stationed behind piles of pork, the nearly two dozen members of Waterford High School’s FFA chapter served up their night’s worth of hard work to hundreds of community members Thursday afternoon.

Around 600 people typically pack the Ed Barnett Vocational Agricultural Building for the chapter’s annual hog roast. Students picked up the four hogs from Pine Ridge Meat Processing shortly after noon Wednesday and stayed at school overnight tending to the pork and setting up for the big event, said Waterford FFA president Blake Campbell.

This year’s hog roast marked Campbell’s fourth and it is always a fun experience for the students, he said.

“We put the hogs on the roasters around 4:30 p.m. and got to go play basketball in the gym. They hogs were done and off the roaster around midnight,” he said.

The work did not end there. Waterford FFA member Gabbi Tornes was tasked with the dirty work of saturating some of the pork with barbecue sauce.

“I like my job,” said Tornes, a sophomore. “My job was mixing the barbecue with the plain meat…We buy gallons of barbecue sauce and then sort of just soak the meat.”

Students got to nap for approximately an hour and a half around 6 a.m., said FFA secretary Allison Adams.

“We slept in the gym or wherever we could find,” she said.

The tradition is one of Adam’s favorites from start to finish, she said.

“I like hearing everyone compliment the food and knowing we’re giving back to the community,” she said.

The roast is a community tradition that many have attended for decades.

“It’s at least twice as big as when it started,” said Waterford farmer Jack Cunningham, 79, who has missed “very few” of the annual hog roasts.

The roast is a good chance to visit with neighbors, said Cunningham.

Retired Waterford High School teacher Oran Adams agreed.

“We enjoy the food. We enjoy seeing everybody. Practically everybody in the community will be here,” said Adams.

The exact inception of the hog roast is hard to pinpoint. Some version of a hog roast at the high school has been going on since shortly after Waterford resident Francis Miller graduated from the high school in 1963, he recalled.

“It’s nice for the community. It gives the (students) something to work for, helps them give back to the community,” he said.

The event is not a fundraiser, but a way to thank the community for its continued support, explained Campbell.

“We take donations if you want, but it’s not required. It’s a thank you to give back to the community,” he said.

Every year the community supports the Waterford FFA with between $60,000 to $70,000 that helps the student go on trips, like the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky., said FFA advisor Matt Hartline.

On top of the trips, the FFA also helps students develop a wide array of important skills, noted Blake’s father Joe Campbell, who donated the hogs.

“I judged a public speaking event,” said Joe of an FFA event earlier in the week. “One boy, when he came in as a freshman, you couldn’t get a word out of him.”

Through FFA’s emphasis on public speaking the boy has grown by leaps and bounds, said Joe Campbell.

Chelsey Schott and Jessi White, president and vice president, respectively, of Fort Frye High School’s FFA chapter, agreed.

“My communication skills and being able to talk to people have changed dramatically,” said White, crediting her FFA education.

The Fort Frye FFA was invited to the hog roast and White and Schott came out to support the nearby chapter.

“For being rival schools, our FFA chapters are pretty close,” said Schott.

Waterford FFA alum Misty Mason, 27, enjoys returning for the event and reminiscing about her days setting up the hog roast.

“It was just a lot of fun preparing everything,” she said.

Misty brought her 2-year-old son Devon and her 5-year-old daughter McKensie, who did not have to think hard about her favorite part of the event.

“Pie!” exclaimed McKensie between bites of the desert.