Flocks of people herded into Marion Community Center for dinner Saturday, lured by the call of the wild: deer, elk, quail, pheasant, bass, and more.
Parking spaces disappeared well before the 6:30 p.m. event, sponsored by members of a Bible study group from Aulne United Methodist Church.
Diners waited in line up to 30 minutes to fill plates and bowls with such delicacies as deer and buffalo chili, elk stew, rabbit soufflé, venison meatloaf, smoked goose, mountain oysters, lamb, catfish, white bass, wiper, and more. The line held strong between 20 and 30 people for more than an hour.
“We decided we’d just throw it together real quick,” Mark Johnson said. “The idea was that we wanted to reach out to the community and do something. We didn’t plan too much, but it came off really well.”
Pastor Jeff Lee said that while he planted the idea, the group did all the work.
“A couple of guys started talking, it started spreading, and they pretty much came up with it,” he said. “They’ve had so much fun with it.”
Contributions of game weren’t hard to get, Johnson said, because most in the group like to hunt or fish.
“Rod Just goes out elk hunting every year with his brothers,” he said. “Lucas King donated a bunch of stuff. Of course, there’s a lot of Hetts, so let’s just say the Hetts brought a lot. Mike Carroll, he’s a big fisherman, he brought a lot.”
Dan Hague shared the spoils from a hunting trip to New Mexico.
“We brought about 50 quail back,” he said. “The hunting trip was already scheduled, but I brought them back with the mind of keeping them for this.”
Although the group lost track of the number of diners, Lee said they were surprised by the large turnout.
“We thought originally it would be at the church, but our church is being remodeled,” he said. “This would never have fit in our fellowship hall. The guys are already planning for a bigger venue next year.”
The dinner was free, as Kansas law prohibits selling wild game meat, but the group made money by holding a raffle for dozens of outdoor-related items they donated.
“We’re only going to keep out enough for seed money for next year’s event,” Lee said. “The rest will go to Marion County Resource Center and Food Bank.”
Johnson said the event was a way for study members to share their faith outside of church, and smiled broadly while suggesting a reason behind scheduling next year’s game feed.
“We’re going to try to continue to do it the first Saturday before Valentine’s Day,” he said, “so all us guys can say, ‘Hey, we can take you out on Valentine’s, honey, because we’re going to do something manly the weekend before.’”
Lee neatly sidestepped commenting on Johnson’s remark.
“I’m not going to talk about that,” he said. “I already had one wife say, ‘You know, what are you guys going to do for us for Valentine’s Day.’ But it’s been a great thing for the guys. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”