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December 1, 2012

South Kortright woman threw a heck of a party in 1940

“This little hamlet of South Kortright Saturday night was the scene of a party such as Delaware county had never seen before,” reported The Oneonta Star of Monday, Sept. 23, 1940.

“Undaunted by ever threatening skies which often opened up and unleashed heavy showers of rain, 6,000 men and women and children jammed the grounds of Mrs. Alice T. McLean’s estate and consumed quantities of food which will be talked about in that area as long as any of those who attended it remain alive.”

Something tells me there are still a few around today who recall this grand event. They were pretty young in 1940 and probably got their very first taste of barbecued food. I’d sure enjoy hearing stories about it. This party was documented by photographer Bob Wyer, who did some work for the Star at the time. These and many other photos by Wyer are on display, now through Jan. 31, 2013, at the Delaware County Historical Association museum, on state Route 10, just north of Delhi.

This barbecue was believed to be the first of any appreciable size in this area, and was given by Mrs. McLean as a public relations function for the American Women’s Volunteer Services Inc., a philanthropic organization for which she was the director.

What drew the incredible numbers was the fact that the party was free. No collection was taken, much to the amazement of some skeptics. People came from a radius of nearly 50 miles. They were farmers, bankers, judges, doctors, lawyers, WPA workers and others. As described by the Star it was, “A more heterogeneous group…never assembled.”

Mrs. McLean had put Lawrence L. Walker of Hobart in charge of this big party, which logistically went on without a problem. David Parker of Morris, called an “experienced barbecue man,” oversaw the cooking for the meals served. The Star reported that he took the job reluctantly and after a lot of coaxing because he had never attempted anything of such magnitude.

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