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New this year – the August 31st BBQ will be Take Out/Delivery only!
Cooked slowly and deliciously seasoned, this chicken is moist and tender.
It has a taste of its own!
(Pricing subject to change before the event)
Twice a year, locals and out-of-towners flock to the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company for stellar chicken barbecue—and a one-of-a-kind community experience that’s been going strong in Lancaster County for over 60 years.
This is the best BBQ chicken around. It’s frequently heard praise from those who journey from near and far to the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company for their twice-annual barbecue dinner—a popular, long-held fundraiser held every year on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.
It’s the perfect time of year, warm and filled with the promise of the new season. Locals and visitors queue up at the quick-moving take out line, or enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet (only in May) set up inside the charming red-brick fire station located off of Old Philadelphia Pike in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania. There’s also a free delivery option for those located within a 4-mile radius.
The menu, filled with only-in-Lancaster County specialties, is a major draw—packed with local ingredients and served up by a friendly legion of efficient volunteers. But it’s the convivial atmosphere and positive community spirit that brings the crowds back, year after year.
“I think it’s one of the best chicken barbecues around,” says local Kristin Glass. Many point out it’s the meat, moist and juicy, the result of being slow-grilled over charcoal on a custom barbecue kit housed behind the station. The seasoning—salty, smoky and sweet—gets credit, too. The cooks judiciously pepper Meadow Creek Barbecue Rub, a local blend that includes paprika, onion powder and natural hickory smoke, over the chicken in well-ordered coats, giving it a signature taste.
“When we moved to Lebanon seven years ago, we came over and bought 30 meals for everyone who was helping us move,” notes P. Cooper, who’s been attending for over 20 years. “They all agreed that it’s the best BBQ chicken they’ve had. I must agree!”
For those dining at the fire station, the buffet is stocked with a warm selection of tasty half-chickens, legs and thighs, while take-out and delivery orders are half-chickens only. “The men have been doing it for years and have perfected it, from the heat temperature to seasoning,” describes Paul Fisher, current president of the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company, of the well-honed process.
Then there’s the rest of the menu. There’s potato salad and coleslaw sourced locally from Sadie’s Salads, made on a nearby Amish farm. Creamy apple butter from nearby Kauffman Orchards, and soft dinner rolls from Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop on Gibbons Road. Tangy pickles, warm baked potatoes and crispy Herr’s potato chips, another Lancaster delight, round out the dinner. Dessert consists of cake, along with creamy ice cream sourced from Lapp Valley Farm in nearby Intercourse. To-go orders are modified—chicken, applesauce, chips, pickles, a roll, drink and a Lancaster whoopie pie. “These local connections make the whole thing work,” says Fisher, pointing out how many businesses donate their tasty wares to the event.
It takes about 75-80 volunteers to make a chicken barbecue dinner happen, and many of them, like Fisher, forged an early connection to fire company via these events. “From the time we could walk, my dad took us along,” he recalls. As an adolescent, he was put in charge of dishwashing duty before graduating to firefighter, treasurer, and so on.
Now as president, he recognizes these events as great ways to not just raise funds for the all-volunteer company—but to usher in the next generation of fire fighters. “It’s a great way for us to recruit new members,” Fisher explains. “There’s camaraderie, responsibility and working with others. It’s not something you find everywhere, and it seems to hook a lot of people.”
It’s not just the future firefighters who are hooked. “I go to every event,” says Kristin Glass, who always brings her beloved adopted Labradoodle with her to the fire company when she picks up her take-out dinners. “They have a special place in my heart because they rescued him,” she says of Rupert, formerly a stray with matted hair who wandered up to the fire company.
Then there’s fan Joseph Costa, age 64, who has attended since he was 5 years old. “Love the meals at the fire house,” he notes. “Food has always been delicious and [I] travel from New Jersey to eat the meals. And when I cannot travel I get my nieces to pick it up…[it] now has become a family tradition that is always a highlight to memories past and future.”
It’s a sentiment shared by many, who faithfully return for more than just superb chicken barbecue, sharing the experience with others, and extending a Lancaster County tradition that’s been in swing since the 1960s. Fisher’s father Dan, now in his late-70s, still attends, along with family members in their teens. Whether dining or volunteering or picking up take-out, these are people from all walks of life, basking in a collective feeling of being part of something good. “It pulls together the whole community and you definitely get that vibe,” says Fisher. “It makes you realize we’re all pretty much the same when it really boils down to it.”