Yukon ready to go ‘Ground Hog Wild’

Yukon FUMC dinner returns March 19 after COVID cancellation, delay

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Event coordinator Russell Kline (second from left) directs members of his large volunteer crew during a previous Ground Hog Dinner at Yukon’s First United Methodist Church, 400 Elm. The 65th Annual Ground Hog Dinner will be Saturday, March 19, with the traditional “all-you-can eat” meal served continuously from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

March 19 can’t come soon enough for many Yukon diners.

This is the “new” date for Yukon’s time-honored Ground Hog Dinner – at least in 2022.

“Traditionally our dinner has been on or around Ground Hog Day,” said Russell Kline, who coordinates the United Methodist Men’s community feast.

“This year, we had to postpone our 65th Annual Ground Hog Dinner from Jan. 29 because of an increase in COVID cases. It will be a seven-week delay.”

The United Methodist Men’s group met Saturday to firm up plans for the dinner – which will be staged Saturday, March 19 inside Yukon’s First United Methodist Church, 400 Elm.

“We serve continuously from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in our Christian Life Center,” Kline said. “It’s all-you-can-eat, so nobody should leave hungry.

“The menu is the same each year. It doesn’t change. We have seasoned kraut with Czech-style pork ribs, sausage ‘ground hog’ patties, sausage gravy, new potatoes, biscuits, and apple butter. There will be coffee and tea to drink.”

As if that’s not enough to satisfy appetites, Yukon Kids First sells desserts for $1 and soft drinks for 50 cents.

This won’t be the first time Yukon’s Ground Hog Dinner has been delayed for multiple weeks, however.

“About seven years ago, Yukon was dark because of an ice storm,” Kline recalled. “We didn’t have power at the church when the dinner was scheduled, so we postponed it until March.”

If the new timeframe works out well, Kline confirmed Yukon’s United Methodist Men would consider starting a new tradition by moving the annual dinner to March.

Interest in the upcoming Ground Hog Dinner has grown largely because the 2021 event was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

In fact, the last dinner was more than 25 months ago – on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020.

The Ground Hog Dinner is a community tradition, with crowds between 1,250-1,500 hungry customers feasting on a taste-tempting menu that hasn’t changed since it debuted in 1956.

“There used to be more than 2,000 back in the ‘old days’ when the church was on the corner,” Kline said.

The food has been ordered and is ready to deploy. Average quantities of food prepared are:

  • 400 pounds of pork ribs
  • 800 pounds of pork sausage patties
  • 108 gallons of kraut
  • 96 gallons of whole white potatoes
  • 50 gallons of sausage milk gravy
  • 3,200 frozen biscuits
  • 12 gallons of apple butter
  • 50 gallons of coffee
  • 40 gallons of iced tea

The “all-you-can-eat” meal is served family style inside the dining area. Take-out orders are offered.

Tickets for adults are $9 in advance and $10 at the door; for children 12 years and under, $4. For more information, call (405) 354-8858.

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IT TAKES A VILLAGE

It takes a village – of volunteers – to make Yukon’s Ground Hog Dinner possible.

About 125 volunteers are needed to plan and present the epic feed.

Yukon FUMC members and church friends serve on about a dozen “crews.”

Tasks include everything from collecting tickets, preparing food and serving the meal to bussing tables, cleaning dishes and filling take-out orders.

Kline has been coordinator for about 15 years, having taken over for the late Bob “Boss Hogg” Schwaninger.

Besides nourishing the masses, Yukon’s Ground Hog Dinner benefits worthy causes.

The event was started to raise funds for the Yukon Methodist Church’s building fund.

In the mid-1950s, the church occupied a small white building on the northwest corner of the property at Fourth and Elm. The congregation didn’t have enough money to expand, so they started this dinner.

For many decades, Yukon’s Ground Hog Dinner has supported local and worldwide missions and outreach.

“Today, this is a fund-raiser targeting the metro area – not just our church members,” Kline noted.

The United Methodist Men’s group welcomes hungry customers from near and far to chow down on March 19th – and they’re already looking ahead to 2023.

“Next year will be our 66th Ground Hog Dinner ‘off Route 66’,” Kline said.

Yukon’s FUMC is one block south of the Mother Road in downtown Yukon.

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