As people entered Camp Tuk-A-Way nearly two hours early for the 11th Annual Wildlife Dinner hosted by the Craig Valley Gospel Fellowship, expectations were high and freely verbalized.
“You’d better have cooked that bear just how I like it,” one hunter said to the cooks with a big smile.
“What do you have different this year?” another asked. “Any Rattler or possum?”
With more laughter, back pats and handshakes and hugs that could be counted, people slowly meandered in, found their favorite seat and then proceeded to look through the items for auction and purchase their raffle tickets for the big items.
Baked goods were for sale, but they didn’t stay on the tables very long at all.
Music permeated the atmosphere by two groups, Heavenbound and Randy Dudding and his friends. Attendees enjoyed the country, bluegrass and gospel music by tapping their feet or hands and bobbing their heads while others sang along.
As dinnertime neared, they had seated about 300 people. The blessing was asked and then table by table, like cattle to the grain, people were released to get in line for a delicious meal.
“Shucks, I sat at the wrong end this year,” said one guy. “That’s ok because they always have plenty.”
And, they did. From bear cooked regular to BBQ, and deer the same way, squirrel, turkey, rabbit stew and yes, the infamous pork that had been grilling all day for those with a ‘less wild’ taste for the cuisine. They even had chicken. “Everything was cooked to perfection by each hunter,” organizer Dana Caldwell said.
After one person filled their plate with all their favorite meats, they then enjoyed the long tables of delicious side dishes and homemade desserts which included old pinto beans and cornbread, mac and cheese, baked beans, potatoes of all sorts and of course strawberry cake, blueberry roll, chocolate and coconut cake, just to name a few.
“This is better than The Roadhouse!” one man said as he enjoyed his bear meat.
Several people took their meals ‘to go’ for those who could not make the trip.
The items were later auctioned off, and people bid on their favorites they had looked at earlier. Fun was the main ingredient as jokes were told and much encouragement was rallied over the items.
The teens had their own raffles of fishing items and a deer feeder.
Pastor Jay Law told everyone he truly appreciated all who attended and welcomed any newcomers. Aaron Calfee also gave a special message, talking to people about stepping out of the darkness and into the light of Jesus Christ.
His ‘twinsie’ and sister, Dana, wished to send out a big ‘thank you,’ “first to God for having favor on our wildlife dinner and the weather. And also, to those who came out from everywhere to support our dinner and to everyone else who made it possible.”
They also sent a shout out of appreciation to Camp Tuk-A-Way for the rental, all the sponsors who helped out in donating the prizes and to Craig Valley Gospel Fellowship members for working so hard. “It takes all of us to pull this off,” Caldwell said.
Finally, the big-ticket raffles came up and all of a sudden, the room got extremely quiet. “You don’t mess with hunters and fishermen and women when it comes to their guns and rods,” one lady said with a chuckle.
Big grins filled the faces of all who won.
“We just want to thank everyone who came, and we really appreciate your support of our annual dinner,” Caldwell shared.
Added Pastor Law, “We want to give a special thank you to the Catawba Valley Bear Hunters who did the hunting and cooking. Come on back next year and bring a friend.”
Craig Valley Gospel Fellowship at 1867 Craigs Creek Road is a non-denominational church, which opens its doors and arms to anyone who would like to attend. The contact number is 540-864-8984.
Sunday School starts at 10 a.m. and worship begins at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Wednesday night Bible study starts at 7 p.m. “Anyone looking for a good church is always welcome here,” Law shared.