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World's Largest Barbecue celebrates base/community relationship

Staff Writer

A heaping helping of friendship and fun was served up to Dyess personnel Saturday, all to say thanks for a job well done.

The annual Dyess barbecue - dubbed the "World's Biggest" by promoters - celebrated everything the base does for the community.

And in light of Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall's Friday announcement of an expected 20 percent increase in personnel, the event was also a day to celebrate good things yet to come.

U.S. Rep. Charles Stenholm, who took time out to serve hungry families at the event, said the barbecue was just one example of the caring attitude that Dyess personnel say makes Abilene and the base special.

"Dyess is the premiere B-1B base," Stenholm said. "Days like today are what will keep it there."
Stenholm said the warmth extended to the base by the community made servicemen and women feel welcome, something other cities didn't always do.

Sponsored by the Military Affairs Committee of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, the event gives active-member personnel and their families a chance to eat free as a gesture of Abilene's appreciation for their service.

About an hour into the serving, about 3,000 had already gone through the line. More than 10,000 servings were expected to be handed out by the event's end.

"We've got the best reputation of any military base in the nation, maybe even the world," said Ernest "Sonny" Hermann, one of the organizers of the event who helped put together the menu. "This is something they base is known for all over. When you say Dyess, military people will say, 'Oh, that's where they have the big barbecue.' "

Hermann has been at 26 of the 31 Dyess barbecues and said each year.
Among the food items available:
- 4,000 pounds of meat
- 300 gallons of beans
- 1,500 pounds of coleslaw
- 75 gallons of dill pickles
- 1,200 gallons of tea

About 200 volunteers staffed the event, helping serve food and clean tables.

Among the luminaries serving were Abilene mayor Gary McCaleb, city manager Lanny Lambert and Taylor County Judge Lee Hamilton.

Eaters came from all over, with some passing through taking the opportunity to enjoy the fresh-cooked fare. Airmen of all ranks dined together, and children cavorted happily, munching cookies and dipping bread into pools of sauce.

For those stationed at Dyess, the meal had special meaning.

"A lot of bases make you feel like an outsider," said Staff Sgt. Janet Pajerowski. "You feel like you're more at home here because of things like this."

Master Sgt. Oscar Smith III said he's attended every barbecue since he hit Dyess in 1993.
No other base/community relationship in his experience has been as fine as that enjoyed by Abilene and Dyess, he said.

"In my 19 years of active duty, I've never been stationed (anywhere) where they did something like this," he said. "This is really great. Let me tell you, it's not like this everywhere you go."

All content copyright 1996, Brian Bethel, The Abilene Reporter-News and Reporter OnLine


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