Akron Lions celebrate 25 years of “secret” spaghetti success

By on January 24, 2018
The Akron Lions Club will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its annual fire hall spaghetti dinner on Jan. 28. Lions Dave Austin, left, and Kay “Mac” McEllhenney, were happy to don their aprons and Lions caps to  demonstrate  the  cooking  technique  for the  club's secret sauce. They were mum, however, about the pot's contents. Photo by Dick Wanner

The Akron Lions Club will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its annual fire hall spaghetti dinner on Jan. 28. Lions Dave Austin, left, and Kay “Mac” McEllhenney, were happy to don their aprons and Lions caps to demonstrate the cooking technique for the club’s secret sauce. They were mum, however, about the pot’s contents. Photo by Dick Wanner

It is no secret that most of the activities of the Akron Lions Club center around its largest annual fundraiser, the grilled cheeseburger stand at the Ephrata Fair.

Less well-known is the club’s annual spaghetti dinner, held at noon on the last Sunday in January. It started after the fair in 1993, when club members discovered that the butcher supplying ground beef for the cheeseburgers had a bunch of hamburger left over. Under the direction of the then club president James Abshire, members met to resolve the issue. Kay “Mac” McEllhenney came up with the idea of holding a spaghetti dinner. They decided to freeze the ground beef and use it for a January fundraiser.

Mac convinced the club that he could procure an old family recipe that would be a definite culinary winner with Akron area residents. The allure of the now famous “secret sauce” had begun. But the fundraiser almost didn’t happen. A few days before the event was scheduled, the weather turned bitterly cold, and it snowed so much that the Akron borough manager asked the Lions to cancel the event. He said he couldn’t guarantee that municipal snow plows could clear the streets and the fire hall parking lot for access to the building.

Mac would hear none of it and contacted fellow Lion Ervin Hoover, who agreed to have snow plow operators at his North Seventh Street nursery business help clear the streets and parking lot.

The event took place as planned, and it was a big success, with more than 300 dinners sold. The Lions have continued the spaghetti dinners, which happen during a slow time in their busy fundraising calendar year.

Since they began, the dinners have raised over $50,000 for the community, with some of it going to the Akron Boy Scouts who spend their last Sunday in January bussing and cleaning the tables at the spaghetti dinner.

This year’s event follows the traditions established in the beginning. A portion of the ground beef that was purchased for the Ephrata Fair stand was reserved for the spaghetti dinner. A number of fair customers commented that this year’s beef selection by club member Dale Herr was the best ever.

So it is with great anticipation that this year’s organizers, Lions Phil Rutt and Dave Austin, look forward to serving the tastiest “secret sauce” that the Akron Lions have ever prepared.

On Jan. 28, the doors open at 11 a.m. The dinner, complete with all-you-can-eat spaghetti, salad, drink and dessert is served until sold out. Prices are $10 for ages 12 and up, $5 for ages six to 12, and under six is free.

 

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