Annual ox roast is coming to fire station in Strasburg

Annual ox roast is coming to fire station in Strasburg
Scott Daniels

EMT Jared Baer, left, and paramedic Josh Vargo, both firefighters at Strasburg, are getting ready for the annual Strasburg ox roast, coming up Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13 and 14 at the fire station downtown.


The Strasburg Fire Department’s annual ox roast is coming up Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13 and 14 at the fire station downtown. It is the 64th year for the ox roast, which has been a major event in town since 1955 and raises funds for purchases and expenditures needed by the department throughout the year.

The big meal, cooked for the community by the firefighters, paramedics and EMTs who either serve on staff or as volunteers, became so big through the years that the department committed to it in a big way well into the future. The story of how it all began, however, seems to be fading into lost memories.

Strasburg Fire Chief Andy Slemmer can mark lifelong participation in the ox roast, joining family as a child in helping out. His father, Bob, also was a Strasburg firefighter, as were his two brothers.

Sometime in the 1970s or ‘80s, the department moved the whole beef-roasting business from the fire station kitchen, to a purpose-built structure, to the rear of the department property. Enormous roasters were procured, riding on steel rail wheels and withdrawing into insulated ovens behind steel doors on chains. It was a major move committing the department to cooking thousands of pounds of beef for the surrounding community every summer.

That’s the kind of commitment both the department and the town have to each other. Slemmer said it’s a major party with plenty of food and the funding to keep the firefighters in top form.

A car show will return to the ox roast on Saturday from 3-6 p.m., hosted at the Strasburg Savings Bank across the street. The parade will begin at 6:30 p.m.

New to the menu this year are corn dogs, joining the usual menu of roast beef sandwiches, fries, hot dogs and pies, the latter being donated by bakers from around Strasburg. Soft drinks and a beer garden will be available.

Friday night will have live music by Country Reign Band from 8-11 p.m., and Saturday will bring Wacky Country from 4-6:30 p.m. and BadStone from 8-11 p.m.

“The department is really pretty well equipped,” firefighter and paramedic Josh Vargo said. “The money raised by things like the ox roast help us to be well prepared to help the community we serve.”

“It enables us to operate without turning to the community for tax dollars when we have an extra expense,” Slemmer said, pointing to one of the trucks housed at the fire station. “That’s a good example. Recently the truck needed a new generator. It was an $800 expense we were able to cover, thanks to the funds we raise at the ox roast.”

The department also hosts fish fry fundraisers during the year.

“It’s a collective effort to put the ox roast together,” said Jared Baer, a firefighter and EMT at the station. “Everyone who is able to be here helps.”

“We start cooking Thursday night,” Slemmer said. “And we’ll cook about 4,000 pounds of beef to get ready.”

The beef, after cooking, moves to stations around a large table at the center of the building where waiting firefighters remove bones and fat and chop the meat into sandwich-sized servings. Takeout also will be available. The Circle K store nearby will offer snacks for sale with half the income going to the March of Dimes and half to the fire department.

The Strasburg Fire Department’s ox roast may be a bit smaller than in years past, but it will still be a major event with proceeds helping to better serve the community.

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