Smokin’ Good Chicken Barbecues: A Hand-in-Hand Tradition

The Fire Company’s famous chicken barbecues make the Saturdays on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends extra special. The barbecues began in the 1960’s when the firefighters cooked 300 halves of chicken in a tent in the graveyard of the Quaker Meeting House, which was across the street from the old fire hall. In the fall of 1974 the firefighters, using much donated material and labor, built a permanent fire pit (48 feet long x 4 feet wide) complete with a pavilion-type roof behind the fire hall on Enterprise Drive. There is space to grill 400 chicken halves at one time.


The barbecue pit was first used on Memorial Day weekend in 1975. Serving on the committee were Elmer Fisher, Christ Miller, and Dave Kauffman with Chairperson Paul Clugston. They estimated that the pit would have cost $4,200 if a contractor had built it. That year a barbecued chicken meal cost $2.50 for adults and $1.75 for children. The special feature that makes Bird-in-Hand’s barbecued chicken incredibly delicious is the Hinkelspritzer that was invented by the volunteers and installed above the fire pit a few years later. Over the years a number of men, including brothers Eli and Aaron Miller, perfected a secret barbecue sauce. The Hinkelspritzer is a special moving apparatus that coats the chicken with the right amount of sauce at just the right time. At the push of a button, a pump begins pushing this T-shaped sprayer and its hoses along a track above the chicken.


Presently the firefighters begin setting up at 4:30 am, start barbecuing at 8 am and serve till 6 pm. They use 3,400 pounds of charcoal to make 2,500 halves of chicken. Many delighted people enjoy their meals in the dining room where the Ladies Auxiliary members serve them. They may also drive through the efficient take-out line or have their meals delivered locally.