900 meals served at Yukon Ground Hog Dinner

Spring break reduces audience as Yukon welcomes feast back

Five-year-old foodie Barran Clay Cook’s smile shows just how delicious his meal was at the 65th Annual Yukon Groundhog Dinner. Cook is a Boy Scout, and he was treated to a meal after spending time serving food and cleaning tables for the event. (Photo by Cara Pattison)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

Some 900 meals were served to hungry, appreciative diners as Yukon’s Ground Hog Dinner returned after a COVID break.

The 65th annual community feed was Saturday, March 19 at the First United Methodist Church-Yukon, 400 Elm.

“We had a great audience,” dinner coordinator Russell Kline said. “Many of them came up to tell us, ‘We’re so glad you’re doing this again’.

“We served about 900, so attendance was down a little bit from years past. We’ll never, never, ever do our Ground Hog Dinner during spring break again. We learned our lesson.”

Attendees converged on the church’s Christian Life Center (CLC) to devour a traditional “all-you-can-eat” meal served family-style throughout the day.

The menu, unchanged since this meal began, featured seasoned kraut with Czech-style pork ribs, sausage patties, sausage gravy, new potatoes, biscuits, and apple butter.

Norma and Garry Shuffield came to Yukon to savor the Ground Hog Dinner with family and friends. This was their second time – the last was in 2017.

“We thoroughly enjoyed it,” Norma Shuffield said. “The food and service were excellent! We will definitely be back next year.”

This marked the first time the United Methodist Men’s group presented the dinner since February 2020. The event was cancelled in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The 2022 Yukon Ground Hog Dinner was supposed to be Jan. 29, but organizers pushed it back six weeks due to a rise in COVID cases.

It was an “all-church event” with about 100 volunteer crew members working in three shifts to make sure nobody left hungry, according to Kline.

“We’re already looking ahead to 2023, when we’ll celebrate the dinner’s 66th year,” he said. “We’ll promote it as ’66 on 66’ because our church is right off Route 66.

“The date for next year’s dinner is undetermined. One thing for sure, it will not be around spring break.”

Church youth group members, from left, Chloe Cromwell, 16; Audrey Boyd, 18; Ruby Barker, 17, and Evann Boyd, 16, make dishwashing fun. The girls had mountains of pots, pans, dishes, and silverware to wash to keep the event running smoothly. (Photo by Cara Pattison)
First United Methodist Church members, from left, Kristi Swink, Bob Cox, Linda Long, and Pam Elder serve sauerkraut and ribs, new potatoes, sausage patties, sausage gravy, and biscuits with a smile at the 65th Annual Groundhog Day Dinner. (Photo by Cara Pattison)
Karl Carter and Greg Hubby prepare racks of sausage for the 65th Annual Groundhog Dinner at the First United Methodist Church-Yukon. (Photo by Cara Pattison)
FUMC-Yukon members, from left, Carole Martin and Mary Jo Blakeburn, do their part to help with Yukon’s Groundhog Day Dinner by rolling silverware in napkins. (Photo by Cara Pattison)


FUMC-Yukon member Mike McEachern has eaten – and volunteered – at the Ground Hog Dinner since joining the church in 1970.

“People have been waiting two years for this,” McEachern said. “It was a real pleasure to bring the dinner back – and get it ‘back on track’ again. It was successful and we’re more than grateful to everyone who came out and supported the church.

“I’m pleased that we had really good participation considering we usually have this in late January or early February and had to move it to spring break this year because of COVID.”

For many years, McEachern helped prepare and cook the sausage.

“I usually work the 2-to-5 shift,” he said. “This year I was the ‘drink dude’ and helped fill people’s water, coffee and tea.

“I’ve participated heavily and only missed a couple of years. We used to cook off-site, including in Bob Schwaninger’s garage. We now have large ovens and large refrigerators in the church kitchen. It’s a lot more efficient.”

While McEachern and other volunteers served the free drinks, the Yukon Kids First preschool again sold canned pop and desserts for $1 each.

Funds raised at Yukon’s Ground Hog Dinner will benefit local and worldwide missions and outreach.

FUMC members started the dinner in 1956 to support the church building fund.

First United Methodist Church-Yukon member Tonya Taylor whisks a huge pot of sausage gravy together. (Photo by Cara Pattison)
Local Boy Scout Troop 807 members, from left, Assistant Scoutmaster Nick Kline; Tenderfoot Jackson Kline, 12; Bear Dave Dace, 8; and Webelo Roy Pickle, 10, rolled-out to support the community feast. (Photo by Cara Pattison)
Tom and Sue Kassik get ready to dig in for a delicious feast. (Photo by Cara Pattison)

Church member Jason Long ensures that everyone attending the feast had a full drink by manning the mobile drink cart. (Photo by Cara Pattison)