A Whitefish Tradition for a Good Cause: The Ideal Beef Feed

The Ideal Beef Feed, pictured from the top of the department's hook and ladder truck outside the station. Photo by Kate Perkins

The Ideal Beef Feed, pictured from the top of the department's hook and ladder truck outside the station. Photo by Kate Perkins

Every year the Ideal Beef Feed is an annual tradition on the Whitefish Chain- one that nearly everyone in the area, whether a local, visitor or just passing through, stops to enjoy.

The Ideal Beef Feed is a fundraiser for the Ideal Fire Department, a group of volunteer men and women who help keep the area safe, fighting grass and building fires and responding to medical and 911 calls. In support of their efforts, and as part of a long-standing tradition, the community always shows out in huge numbers to support the fire department.

This year the Ideal Beef Feed is Wednesday, Aug. 10, from 4-8 p.m. The dinner includes baron of beef, coleslaw, buns, watermelon, and all the corn on the cob you can eat. The beef and corn are both cooked the day of the feed by Ideal Fire Department members and other volunteers and family members.

This will be the 39th annual Ideal Beef Feed, having originated in 1978. While the fundraiser had modest beginnings, now around 2,000 meals are served annually at the feed during its four hours of operation. Through the decades of the beef feed, more than 28,000 pounds of beef, 175,000 ears of corn, 1,200 watermelons and 5 tons of coleslaw have been served to hungry fire department supporters. Now that's a fire truck load of food!

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In 2014 alone, Lakeland Public TV reported that the fire department cooked up more than 2,000 pounds of beef and 6,000 ears of corn! The fire department boils its corn in huge vats before scooping it out with huge nets and dipping it in golden yellow butter. As for the beef, it's cooked in huge fire department cookers (labeled and numbered similarly to their fire trucks) over several hours. Lemonade is served from huge vats and is ice cold for the warm August night typical of the event.

The feed takes place at the Ideal Township Hall rain or shine. The town hall is located at 35458 Butternut Point Rd, just off County Road 16. Tables are arranged in long lines outside to accommodate the hundreds of people eating at a time, chatting with their neighbors and enjoying a summer evening in the Whitefish Chain area. Across the street from the Ideal Fire Department is the Ideal Township Recreational Park, where kids can play. In addition to the fields and playground equipment, the park includes the Ideal Volunteer Firefighters Museum, where kids and adults alike can learn about the beginnings of the department. On display is the department's very first fire truck. Press the buttons on the panel to see the lights light up and the sirens wail! 

The Ideal Beef Feed has become a summer picnic- one that often family vacations and trips are planned around. Nobody wants to miss the chance to see their community and eat the delicious beef, corn, coleslaw and all the fixin's. 

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