The traditional New Year’s Day dinner of pork and sauerkraut came to Franklin County, Pa., by immigrants from Lancaster, Pa., and before that by immigrants from Germany, Robert Windemuth said Tuesday.
Windemuth, a history teacher from Chambersburg, Pa., and his wife, Roberta, joined about 600 people at the Fayetteville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co., where the pork and sauerkraut tradition lived on Tuesday.
Fire department members and friends put on annual dinners, including the New Year’s feast, which bring in more than $20,000 for the fire department coffers.
“This is not our biggest fundraiser of the year, but it’s our chance to give something back to the community,” firefighter Mark Bumbaugh said.
“Because of the German element in this area, pork and sauerkraut is very much a New Year’s tradition,” Windemuth said.
Pork was always a primary meat in Germany, more than beef, and people made sauerkraut because it was easy to store, he said.
“A lot of Germans in Lancaster moved to Franklin County and brought their German traditions with them,” he said.
While a staple on New Year’s Day, pork and sauerkraut stand aside the rest of the year for chicken, ham and beef.
“We serve broasted chicken at our monthly dinners, even when we serve ham and beef,” Bumbaugh said.
“If we don’t serve chicken, like Thanksgiving when it’s turkey, they let us know about it.”
The Rev. Earl and Melva Peters of Fayetteville sat nearby with full plates.
“Everybody has pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s,” Melva Peters said. “I used to serve it myself, but why should I cook at home when I can come here.”
She was asked to compare her cooking at home to the meal she was eating at the fire hall.
“Well, nobody can cook it as good as you can at home, but if this wasn’t good, I wouldn’t be here. The best thing they have here is always the broasted chicken.”
Bumbaugh said it takes about 30 volunteers to put on the dinners.
“We have good people here. They do all the cooking, including the side dishes and most of the desserts.”
Bumbaugh said many volunteers, like himself, learned to cook in the country homes where they grew up.
He mentioned Barbara Sellers, who volunteers to bake eight cakes and pies for the monthly dinners.
The fire department has an annual budget of about $1.7 million, raised through bingo, fundraisers and donations. In addition to volunteers, there are 43 paid emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
The company made about 600 fire calls and more than 7,000 ambulance calls and patient transfers in 2012, Bumbaugh said.
It has four ambulances and transport vans that take patients to hospitals and medical visits. The fire department contracts with area nursing homes to provide those services.