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Friday, September 19, 2014
Canajoharie, NY ,

Joshua Thomas
A crowd gathers outside the H.C. Smith Benefit Club for Saturday's 15th Annual Wild Game Feed.

Joshua Thomas
Mike Simonelli (with Cathy Rice) prepares food in the H.C. Benefit Club kitchen.

Joshua Thomas
Billy Vicciarelli, head of the kitchen at the H.C. Smith Benefit Club, prepares a to-go container of venison pasta.

Joshua Thomas
The dining room of the H.C. Smith Benefit Club is packed since the very beginning of each year's Wild Game Feed.

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15th Annual Wild Game Feed brings in funds for H.C. Smith Benefit Club

Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - Updated: 9:29 AM

By JOSHUA THOMAS

C-S-E Editor

ST. JOHNSVILLE -- Though grey skies loomed and threatened rain that didn't come until nearly the end of the 15th Annual Wild Game Feed at the H.C. Smith Benefit Club, the facility was ready, a massive tent erected out front to accommodate the gigantic, enthusiastic crowd.

Though the official title of the event is the Wild Game Feed, many locals know it as the "Beast Feast", and it certainly has a following. It's considered by many an event never to be missed, and people pencil it into their calendars a year ahead of time, as it's always scheduled for the final Saturday in March.

The first Wild Game Feed wasn't a popular event, with only dozens of people attending, but word rapidly caught on. Within a couple of years, attendance boomed to the point where now, with the event at its peak each year, the dining room, the giant open-air space outside and the back-room bar are all packed to the brim with local folks -- and some not so local, as one group of people travelled three hours to attend -- interested in trying some unique cuisine.

Throughout the years, there has been some really interesting items on the menu at the Wild Game Feed, including rabbit salad sandwiches, caribou, bear, fried turkey and wild boar.

What's served at the event depends largely on what donations are received each year, as the organizers annually put out a call for wild game. "We never know what's going to be donated, so every year, we just roll with it," commented member Mark Rice.

Local hunters are happy to oblige, and though donations were a bit lower this year than in the past -- a factor that organizers blame on the economy -- there was numerous types of venison donated, along with a massive portion of bear meat, which facilitated a gigantic spread of stews, chilies, pasta sauces, meatballs, sausages, pizzas and other items. 

The club purchases hamburgers, hotdogs, rice and pasta, just to mention a few items they provide.

The H.C. Smith Benefit Club's members, along with volunteers from the community who come out just to donate their time, work hard on the feast for weeks ahead of it, and intensively the week prior.

Members are on scene from the crack of dawn through the early evening on the day of the feast, also coming in on Sunday for numerous hours just to clean up.

The Wild Game Feed is the largest fundraising event held for the benefit of the H.C. Smith Benefit Club each year, and it provides funding not only for food to be served at various benefits, but also for the large facility's extensive exterior and interior maintenance.

"This is the only fundraiser we currently have to assist local families throughout the year," said member Michelle Lull.

Each year, the club also uses the money raised at the Wild Game Feed to fund one large project. One of the club's goals is to replace the facility's many windows, and in the past has included the rehabilitation of the bar, kitchen, bathrooms and dining room.

One thing that's clear about the club from the moment that you walk onto the property is that the 35 sustaining members, active members and volunteers are working their absolute hardest to help and bring joy to the local community.

"We have wonderful help from the community," Lull stated, adding, "We have great contacts with people who live here and offer up their help."

Rice agreed, stating of the camaraderie demonstrated at the club, "the thing I love about the club and the reason I keep coming back is that it all goes back to the community. When something like this happens, we all fall together and everybody works and we get it all done."

Joshua Thomas - Justin Kalinowski, of Kern Creations, showed off and sold his original metal sculptures at the H.C. Smith Benefit Club during the annual Wild Game Feed.

Joshua Thomas - David and Julia Lull man a raffle ticket booth at the Wild Game Feed.

Joshua Thomas Just a portion of the various wild-game-infused food available at the Wild Game Feed.

Joshua Thomas - Chainsaw Carver Rich Koonz creates an original piece for the crowd at the Wild Game Feed.

     

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