Chamber of Commerce hosts Annual Cookout
The Morale, Welfare and Recreation organization (MWR) and the Lawton/Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce hosted their 32nd Annual Buffalo Burger Cookout at 11 a.m. Sept. 21, at Fort Sill’s Co-Op Park.
Former Fort Sill commanding general, retired Maj. Gen. Edward Dinges, and former Lawton Mayor, Wayne Gilley brought the Lawton and Fort Sill communities together for the first Buffalo Burger Cookout in 1981. Since then, the Lawton Chamber of Commerce teamed up with Fort Sill’s MWR to bring Lawton and Fort Sill together. The combination allowed both communities to show what they mean to each other.
Soldiers manned four five-foot rot iron grills and the process of grilling 4,000 buffalo burgers began with rousing competition amongst the grillers. Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, commanding general of Fort Sill, showcased his talent on the grill as well, flipping a hamburger patty multiple times without it ever missing the spatula.
By 1:30 p.m., around 3,200 patrons had gathered at Co-Op Park to enjoy good music, good weather and the great burgers, the latter having been provided by the Co-Op and the MWR.
Fort Sill spokesperson Nancy Elliott, attended two decades worth of Buffalo Burger Cook-Outs. She said the cookout has always been a great way to reinforce the bond between the two communities.
“It’s a way for soldiers to interact with the community and vise-versa,” Elliot said. “There are an awful lot of folks who come here, spend two or three years here, and never interact with the community. There are also a lot of businesses who don’t interact with the soldiers, so this is one way to bring them together.”
Master Sgt. Angel Velez, Co-op Coordinator for Fort Sill, said he is expecting 4,000 to 5,000 patrons — which is a good rise from last year.
Velez worked as the cohesive component, the glue that bonded the Lawton Chamber of Commerce with the Fort Sill Co-op together. He said the process of organizing and setting up the event, which began Thursday, went smooth due to the tons of help received.
As the cookout unfolded, different command teams exchanged posts each hour. The rotation: 77th Fires Brigade, 2/14 Field Artillery, 4/28 Field Artillery, 4/34 Field Artillery, 30th Air Defense Artillery and 31st Air Defense Artillery, kept the event running smooth. The weather started out at a chill 55 degrees and progressed to a high of 88.
“You couldn’t ask for a better day,” Elliott said.
When the temperature rose, so did the crowd and the music. Close to 4000 patrons came out to enjoy the event. The 77th Army Band, made up of soldiers who have only been together for no more than six months, kept the cookout festive and upbeat. They performed music from The Beatles to Marvin Gaye to Guns N’ Roses.
Sgts. 1st Class Jeremy Nygard and Eric Cryer, Sgts. Robert Lawson and Clarence Greer, and Spcs. Zachary Holliday, Jacob Frick and Bill League,were all in sync with each other, not missing a tune vocally or instrumentally.
Staff Sgt. Robert Fortune and Spcs. Jonny Anderson and Stephen Laverdure also serenaded the crowd on their bagpipes, playing “Amazing Grace” and blended their unique sound in with other songs being played by the band.
Each year, the Buffalo Burger Cook-out has grown. more sponsors get behind it and help spread the word of the free cookout. And each year, the Lawton and Fort Sill communities come together to reaffirm their bond. The event has been, and continues to be, a success.
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