By Lenny C. Lepola
Labor Day is Sept. 1, and in Sunbury that means at least two things.
Maybe it means more than two things, but ask any member of the Sunbury Lions Club and he or she would tell you that Labor Day means summer is over and it’s time for the Sunbury Lions Ox Roast.
In keeping with changing times, this year’s Lions Club Ox Roast and Flea Market on the Square has a new look and name. Lion Glenn Evens said it’s now The Sunbury Lions Ox Roast and Community Festival.
“It’s no longer a flea market,” Evans said. “We’re trying to encourage antique dealers and craft dealers to rent space and are getting away from the non-antique vendors. Our goal is to turn the event around to the way it was 50-plus years ago when the Ox Roast began.”
Evans said the Lions Ox Roast is aiming for a festival atmosphere, with more events for children like bounce houses, crafts for kids and face painting.
“It’s still the same ox roast, just a different format with more arts and crafts and activities,” Evans said. “The Lions Ox Roast has always been like a big family reunion with a Sunbury flavor to it. Part of the tradition is to show up, socialize with friends and neighbors, and have some pit-cooked roast beef, potato salad, beans and a soft beverage.”
Evans said as always, early birds can come for breakfast sandwiches; the Big Walnut High School Pep Band will perform at approximately 10 a.m.; and Marv Monroe and his harmonica friends will perform throughout the afternoon.
“We started the ox roast in 1947, and I’ve been a member for 40 years,” Evans said. “I can remember years when we’ve had as high as 10,000 people come through the door. Last year it was 6,500.”
The Labor Day Ox Roast is a major Sunbury Lions fundraiser. All profits go towards a variety of Lions Club projects, including eyeglasses for the local community, the Big Walnut Friends Who Share Food Pantry and the Lions International Peace Poster Contest through Big Walnut schools.
In addition to the local projects, the Sunbury Lions also contribute through Lions Clubs International to efforts such as vaccinations to prevent River Blindness.