By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
It was springtime, and Horace Groff just couldn’t say no when asked to volunteer for the upcoming fundraising concert. That was how he became involved with “feeding the masses” each Memorial Day weekend before the annual Reba concert, raising funds for the local hospital and Reba’s Ranch House.
What started as a one-day event exploded when the concerts shifted from the football stadium where Horace and fellow volunteers grilled hamburgers and hotdogs. The concerts moved to the airport and the grills were replaced with mega smokers where the cooking crews fed people 15-18 hours a day for a whole week. Reba would bring in multiple semis plus buses filled with equipment.
“That was the kind of show she put on,” Horace said. “It was always top quality, and there were a lot of people in the background to make it happen.”
With those semis and buses came lots of people backstage looking for something to do—and something to eat. Then there were the local volunteers to feed: Staff from the hospital freely offered their time; students from the high school earned a concert ticket by setting up chairs; the ladies of the Reba Development Committee who organized everything.
And Horace was in the midst of it all, helping keep hundreds of people fed.
“Some workers would start at daylight, then they’d finish and another crew would come in,” Horace recalled the shifts. “The food service director at the hospital coordinated and bought the food. We would show up and do briskets and sometimes fried fish. There were several of us with cooking equipment, and we always felt good about giving back to the community.”
Born and raised in Denison, Horace served as the county judge for 21 years, so another unique task fell to him. He became a liaison between the committee and the airport, helping iron out wrinkles in flight schedules, timing for setup and the concert.
The Memorial Day concert got underway at dark as the late spring heat cooled from the day. Horace and the brisket smokers were set up backstage and he had no trouble hearing the lively concerts.
Still, the best part for him was the fellowship—everyone from big name country stars to high schoolers.
“You had a lot of people backstage,” Horace said. “It got to be quite a production to get all that done, but we had hundreds of volunteers show up and pitch in. A good time was had by all.”
The monumental effort Horace and his cooking crew put forward is paying dividends today for every caregiver who finds refuge at Reba’s Ranch House.
After 30 years, “Feeding the masses” remains part of the ranch house. Churches and other community members bring food weekly for exhausted caregivers to have a hot meal and snacks. The kitchen in the ranch house is available to caregivers 24/7.
You can continue Horace and the food crew’s legacy of feeding hungry souls by contributing to the ranch house here!