Brooks', Broome F.D. celebrate 60 years of fundraisers

·4 min read

Sep. 9—Brooks Bar-B-Q recently celebrated 60 years of fundraisers for an area fire department.

The Town of Broome Volunteer Fire Department in Schoharie County held its 60th annual Brooks' House of Bar-B-Q fundraiser on Sunday, Sept. 4.

The department sold out the 800 chicken halves that were prepared for Sunday's fundraiser, John Brooks said. The annual fundraiser has been held the Sunday of Labor Day weekend since 1962, and is the longest continuously-run barbecue fundraisers Brooks' House of Bar-B-Q holds.

Brooks said he remembers working at the first barbecue fundraiser when he was 16, and he helped at Sunday's fundraiser as well.

During the first one, he said he was "learning the ropes" from two of his father's barbecue pit masters. "I was in high school and I was in training. Little did I know I would buy my parents out later," he said.

He said his son, Ryan, received a text from Howard Wayman at the fire department about doing the annual fundraiser and asked John if he wanted to do anything special about the milestone.

"Three generations of our family have been involved with this fundraiser," he said. "I told him I had some ideas of what I wanted to do."

He said Ryan went through the "barbecue diaries" and did some research about the fundraisers at the fire department. According to Ryan, the department sold between 700 and 900 halves each year. Throughout the 60 years, that totals 48,000 chicken halves. In order to prepare the chicken halves, 36,000 pounds of charcoal and 1,600 gallons of chicken sauce were used. Brooks' had a sign made up with that information and presented it to the fire department to hang in the firehouse, John said. The fire department also received a plaque that said, "Presented to Town of Broome F.D. for having Brooks' House of Bar-B-Q for their Annual Fundraiser 1962-2022. Thank you from Three Generations of the Brooks' Family."

In addition to the presentations, the Brooks' chicken mascot was there and everyone received a pen from Brooks', he said.

John said attending the fundraiser, "brought back some fond memories of the crews over time."

He said during the fundraiser, which was a drive-through or a sit-down dinner, some people came up to him and said they had been coming to the fundraiser every year for the entire 60 years.

"People look for us and that's a compliment," John said.

John said his parents, Griffin and Frances Brooks, started the catering business "to help spread the word about their chicken. Without those first catering jobs in Schoharie and the Cobleskill Fair, our business wouldn't be where it is today."

From the catering business, Griff and Frances started a concession stand in 1958 at the miniature golf course and driving range at the Del-Se-Go Drive-In, the Brooks' House of Bar-B-Q website said. They soon opened a restaurant near their current restaurant in 1961 and opened the current restaurant in 1965. John said the business started as an egg and poultry farm owned by his grandparents in 1912. After his father married his mother, his father bought the business from her parents. He said he remembers helping out at his grandparents' poultry farm in Stamford when he was little with his sister, Phyllis O'Sullivan, 80, who still works at Brooks'. John said he and his wife, Joan, bought the restaurant from his parents and his son, Ryan and his wife, Beth, now own the business.

"He's really expanded the sauce production," John said of Ryan. "We have 130 employees today."

John said the company caters fundraisers throughout a 100-mile radius of Oneonta, which covers 18 counties. He said the company also does catering for private parties and weddings. He said one of the biggest ones the company did was 6,000 dinners for the Albany Medical Center.

"We are fortunate to live in a community that supports us 100%," John said. "It's a two-way street. We give back as much as we can."

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.