Clouds dim the evening sunshine to early twilight. One storm has already deluged Casey Jones Park, and a darkening sky is threatening another. A thin fog formed by melting hail settles close to the ground and hugs the trees surrounding the …
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Clouds dim the evening sunshine to early twilight. One storm has already deluged Casey Jones Park, and a darkening sky is threatening another. A thin fog formed by melting hail settles close to the ground and hugs the trees surrounding the single-wide trailer sitting adjacent to the rodeo arena.
Twenty or more people crowd inside the small trailer, and though the weather is ominous, the mood inside the Elizabeth Stampede's hospitality trailer is cheerful, filled with laughter and banter. Another round of rain and hail begins to fall, lightly tapping the trailer's aluminum roof at first and then drumming in earnest.
With two days of preparation left before the event, Stampede hospitality chair Pat Reinsbach gives his volunteers some final instruction on parking, meal tickets, and signing up for shifts.
“What we do back here is cook for all of the contestants, volunteers, VIPs, sponsors and other rodeo committees that come in to visit us,” Reinsbach says. “In back of the trailer will be two 20-by-40 tents where people will be eating, and we will be serving the food.”
He ticks off menu details and serving times from memory. By the time the rain begins to fall on the Saturday afternoon of June 6, Reinsbach's crew will be on track to serving 3,600 meals, two dinners, two lunches and two breakfasts.
“The biscuits and gravy is sausage gravy. I don't do just white gravy,” he says about a signature part of the breakfasts.
Other meals include a full turkey dinner, pulled pork and homemade meat loaf, all cooked on-site in 12 Traeger grills. For the Sunday festivities on June 7, Reinsbach has planned a chili cook-off where fellow volunteers, rodeo contestants and VIPs can vote for their favorite.
“Whoever wins,” Reinsbach says. “I will personally give them $100.”
This is Reinsbach's second year coordinating hospitality for the Stampede, and he has been working at it since March, planning menus, scheduling food deliveries and coordinating the nearly 40 hospitality volunteers who make this part of the Stampede possible.
Over the past three months, Reinsbach has contracted for the delivery of 470 pounds of bulk hamburger and patties, 400 pounds of turkey, 460 pounds of pork, and 65 pounds of bacon, all stored and kept cool in a 47-foot refrigerator truck provided by the Elizabeth Locker Plant.
Reinsbach will spend the two days leading up to the rodeo and all three days of the event living and working on site.
“If there is food being cooked, we'll be right here,” he says.
In addition to meals, the group will also see to the distribution of 5,000 bottles of water, bags of ice, and over 27,000 assorted snacks.
“The hospitality group is responsible for all water and ice for all of the grounds. If a contestant comes up and says he needs water, we give it to him,” he instructed the volunteers.
One of the biggest challenges for Reinsbach is finding volunteers willing to wash dishes.
“We don't like to do it at our own house,” he says, “so I might grab one of the kids to wash dishes, but I won't let them wash knives.”
Each volunteer receives one meal for every performance worked, and at the close of the Stampede on the afternoon of June 7, an opportunity to buy any uncooked food that is left over.
The rain outside the trailer tapers off to a sprinkle just as the meeting wraps up. The fog has dissipated.
“Be ready to serve a lot of food and just have fun,” Reinsbach tells them.
“What's the weather report for Friday?” asks one volunteer.
“Friday is 60 percent chance of rain. Saturday 60 percent chance of rain. Sunday 60 percent chance of rain,” he says and then advises. “If it rains, plan on being under a tent somewhere.”
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