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Brunswick Stew and Politics, Too

Cars were up and down Mallard Creek Road, full of people hungry for either barbecue pork or politics. Jean and Don Allen have just one thing on their minds. "We really enjoy coming, it's nice to get out," says Jean. "We always enjoy the barbecue and especially the Brunswick stew," adds Don. "It has such a good flavor." Salty and savory. . . just like Rusty Wallace's Great Aunt Beck made for the first Mallard Creek Presbyterian Barbecue in 1929: "We got three different kinds of meat, three different vegetables and then we add a little chicken broth and several other flavors and I can't tell you all of that because my aunt would turn over in her grave, so," says Wallace. Before the day is out, Wallace and his crew will have made 2,300 gallons of Brunswick stew. He ladles the finished product into buckets for serving while a dozen ladies in aprons and hairnets stir steaming black cauldrons. "Looks like a boat paddle, don't it?" says Doris DeArmon, as she stirs. "It's an oar, I guess. That's what I'm stirring with, to keep it from stickin." DeArmon's been helping with the barbecue for 47 years . . . during which time politics have become an important part of the event. I ask Marina Riggio if she came for the food or the politics, and she doesn't miss a beat: "The opportunity to meet the candidates," says Riggio. "You know with some of them I do research on the interent to see what they stand for, but that's kind of tough too, so just getting some of their materials as well, is a little bit helpful." Barbecue Co-chairman Charles Kimrey estimates about forty-percent of the attendees are like Riggio - here for the politics. Candidates for county commission, congress and every office in between stand in a roped-off receiving line shaking hands and passing out campaign flyers as diners arrive. Kimrey says the political side of the event developed by accident. "The politicians saw the crowds we were having 50 or 60 years ago and they thought, well they'll just go to the crowd," says Kimrey. And how does he feel about that? "If the politicians help the crowd, we appreciate them." Kimrey says they've prepared enough slaw, barbecue and Brunswick stew for 10-thousand people. Stir in the simmering excitement over this year's election and Mallard Creek Presbyterian could have its biggest barbecue ever.