The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)
Harwinton Congregational Church gets cooking
Prepares for 60th annual barbecue at the end of the month
HARWINTON — Now a winter tradition, Harwinton Congregational Church’s chicken barbecue initially started as a way to raise money: The church choir needed new robes, so Bronc Callahan fired up the grill.
That barbecue decades ago was the first step in raising money to purchase the robes for the church.
Leroy “Bronc” Callahan, who died in 1994, was a choir member with a booming bass voice, according to his daughter, Linda Callahan Colasurdo.
Callahan and two other church members, Jeep Ruot and Bruce Mosher, came up with the idea of having a chicken barbecue in February, Colasurdo said.
“It’s always been the last Saturday of February,”
Colasurdo said. “I remember my father telling my mother he thought that is very unique. And he got people to come out even if there was a storm.”
That first year, Callahan and his crew cooked up 300 chickens on the grill in the church parking lot. Back then, it was eat-in only, with no takeout, and there were three seatings in the church basement. Colasurdo was a teenager then, and waitressed and worked in the kitchen the first several years. She has been involved almost every year since.
In subsequent years, up to 900 chickens were grilled, requiring 48 bags of charcoal, according to Margaret Arigoni, one of the organizers. In 2021, the event was canceled for the first time because of the COVID pandemic. It resumed in 2022 on the 60th anniversary, but this year’s event will be the 60th actual barbecue.
Dinners are takeout only, Colasurdo said, a change instituted last year because of the pandemic and a shortage of volunteers. Dinners include a half chicken, baked potato, coleslaw, roll and dessert.
She said the homemade coleslaw is a favorite.
“The difference is, it’s not a mayonnaise recipe, it’s a vinegar and oil and sugar recipe. We make it on Thursday, because it has to meld for a day before it’s
packed,” she said.
Also, “Everyone from the church makes pies,” she said. In the past, they have offered apple, peach, pecan, pumpkin, blueberry and cherry pies. Between 60 and 80 pies are baked annually. Cakes also are donated.
Colasurdo said one year, a woman was carrying a pineapple pie into the church to donate it, and her father said with a smile, “Hello, honey, let me take that for you. I’ll take it in for you.”
It never made it inside. “He kept it outside and the crew ate it,” Colasurdo said. “And he would also do that if someone brought a pecan pie. That
pie wouldn’t make it in, either.”
After more than 50 years, the barbecue pits began to rust, so church member Dave Kozikowski and his sons Cole and Luke rebuilt them, in honor of the late Callahan,
“They put my father’s initials right there in the metal, which I thought was really nice,” Colasurdo said.
Proceeds from this year’s chicken barbecue, set for will benefit the church’s general fund. Tickets are $20 and are available at https://harwinton-congregationalchurch.square.site or by calling 860-485-0370 or 860-489-9797. Meals may be picked up at the church, at 1 North St., at the corner of Route 4 and North Road.