17th Annual July 4th BBQ 2010 Gainesville Times
Annual funeral home cookout draws thousands
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Jerry Kinsey, front, funeral assistant, and Todd Frankum, funeral director, flip hamburgers at the 17th annual public safety appreciation luncheon Monday at Memorial Park Funeral Home.
SARA GUEVARA (The Times)
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UPDATED July 5, 2010 3:05 p.m.
What started as a covered dish picnic for fire and police employees has morphed into a community event complete with entertainment, long food lines and political speeches.
Memorial Park Funeral Home held its 17th annual public safety appreciation luncheon Monday, serving up an estimated 6,000 plates of barbecue pork, hamburgers and hot dogs.
"It's our way of giving back," said Billy Hendrix, spokesman for the funeral home. "Our officers and firefighters give so much more and get paid so little. This is just a small token.
"We've been really blessed to do what we do for the community."
Visitors filled their plates, then dined at tables underneath covered tents set up near a stage or more private picnic areas around the property off Memorial Park Drive and Old Flowery Branch Road.
For Jason Gee, who has grandparents buried at Memorial Park Cemetery, the picnic has become a family tradition.
"It's amazing. A lot of time and money was spent on this, especially with the economy and the way it is," he said, a slice of watermelon in hand. "I wondered if it would still go on (this year)."
Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell and Sheriff Steve Cronic expressed their thanks to the crowd.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for public safety ... to intermingle with the folks that we serve," Cronic said. "We're in a community where service means something and support is everything."