SIKESTON - Cooking for the equivalent of an army takes some advance planning. Just ask Eugene Stroud whose job as concession chairman for the 49th Annual Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo includes purchasing and preparing food for a potential 40,000 customers.
"Concessions are probably the biggest part of the money that goes back into the community," said Stroud.
Planning ahead is essential. "I ordered the product back in February," said Stroud.
Preparations kicked into high gear Monday with the arrival of the food and supplies including 150 cases of corndogs, 120 cases of hotdogs, 170 cases of hamburgers, 150 cases of nacho chips, 1,600 pounds of funnel cake mix, 8,000 packages of ketchup and 8,000 packages of mustard. "We go through 320 boston butts," said Stroud.
Supplies also include tools to help rodeo fans beat the heat. "We go through about 250 cases of water," said Stroud. And to keep drinks cold, nearly 25 tons of ice was ordered.
Cooking began Tuesday so food would be ready for the rodeo's opening night crowds Wednesday.
The main concession stand, built about 10 years ago to accommodate the growing crowds, is the control center for concessions. "All meat is prepared in the main concession building," said Stroud. The Sikeston Class of 2002 serve as "runners" keeping each of the concession stands stocked with food and supplies.
This the fourth rodeo for the two additional concessions buildings, referred to as "East Pepsi" and "West Pepsi," which were built to shorten lines and the walk so rodeo fans could return to their seats sooner and miss less of the show. "We wanted to make sure we had all areas covered," said Stroud.
The funnel cake stand is back again this year for the third time serving 20-ounce Pepsi products and nachos in addition to the funnel cakes.
Staffing all these stands requires a small army of its own. "There are probably 50 people just in the main stand," said Stroud, "and East and West Pepsi require 15 to 20 people at each stand." Much of the work is taken on by volunteers who receive a percentage of sales as a donation to their organization.
The main concession stand is primarily worked by the Jaycees themselves, although the American Legion is helping out there cooking hamburgers as a thanks to the Jaycees for welcoming the Cotton Carnival to the rodeo grounds, according to Stroud.
"West Pepsi is run by the Boy Scouts," said Stroud. "The East stand is run by the Sikeston swim team."
The Kelly High School junior class members are responsible for the funnel cake stand, and the YMCA is staffing the open-air stand selling 32-ounce collectible cup sodas. The Mississippi County 4-H Club sells popcorn and sodas to rodeo fans up in their bleachers and box seats.
In past years, the main concession stand was also responsible for preparing and cooking food for the sponsors' meal in addition to the thousands of rodeo spectators - but not this year, thankfully.
Jaycees Jimmy Cox and Dean Weathington will take care of cooking for the sponsors this year using a new state-of-the-art double grill.
Unfortunately, they have already outgrown the sponsors' building. Last year sponsors ate in shifts. A tent was set up this year to provide the needed extra space.
Jaycees plan to expand the building to accommodate the greater numbers for next year.