Annual Buffalo BBQ brings out the masses

Shawn O’Brate, Staff Writer

DUBOIS – This past Saturday the 65th Annual Dubois Fire Department Buffalo BBQ took place at Dubois City Park with a line of over 800 people spanning the entire area around the local gathering area. 

Originally, the event was handled very differently. A buffalo hunt would be sold to a lucky citizen and the meat would be given to the fire department to help feed the community at one large gathering while the hunter would get to keep the mount. Now, the fire department buys the meat and begins stoking the fire outside the Dubois Museum late Wednesday night for two whole days before putting the meat on the smoker for roughly 12 hours. 

The smell of buffalo meat filled the rainy sky that sporadically sprinkled on the people waiting in line and sitting with their families, friends and co-workers while eating the well-stocked plates of food. 

Coleslaw, baked beans, buffalo burgers, slices of bison and corn-on-the-cob were stacked on top of one another for everyone to enjoy, with all the proceeds going back into the local Dubois Volunteer Fire Department that is, sadly, down to only 14 members. 

“When I started we had 31 members,” Mike Franchini, the fire chief in Dubois for the past 14 years said, “We are way down from where we normally are but, luckily, we got some of the family members and friends helping us feed the town.”

But it wasn’t just the town that was waiting in the rain for the delicious food, there were tourists driving through on their way to beautiful mountain views and citizens from all over Fremont County that traveled to get a bite of the buffalo meat. 

“We get people as far away as Thermopolis to show up every year,” Franchini said as he waited for more meat to come off the smoker, “Riverton, Lander, Shoshoni, and a lot of people from local fire departments come out and support us too.”

Not only fire departments and typical civilians showed up at city park, but politicians also found their way to the event with last-ditch efforts to get their name out and about to the voters of Fremont County. 

“It’s a big event, there’s a lot of people that come to this to help support politicians too,” Franchini said. 

One of those politicians, albeit not one that’s running for re-election this year, was Senator John Barrasso who “hasn’t missed a single year” according to both him and Chief Franchini. 

“It’s a great opportunity to visit with the people in the community,” Senator Barrasso said, “You get a chance to walk around and see what’s on people’s minds. Plus, it’s great food.”

Not only did Senator Barrasso come to talk to people and see what’s going on in one of his favorite counties–and favorite cities–but he also came to help support the local heroes that make Wyoming, and Dubois, a safe place to live. 

“What are heroes?” Barrasso asked rhetorically, “They’re the people who put their own lives at risk for the benefit of others, that’s what these volunteers do. They do search and rescue, they’re out in the mountains, they’re in the community…they are the people out saving the community.”

Barrasso mentioned the raging New Year’s fire of 2015 and how the Dubois Volunteer Fire Department helped save countless businesses and people in one of Wyoming’s biggest tourist stops on the way to Yellowstone. He, and Chief Franchini, also mentioned that the Buffalo BBQ is more than just a fun time and a good meal.

“It’s a great place to see people,” Senator Barrasso said, “it’s like a reunion weekend, people come here that went to high school here, they get their babies baptized, they get married, they see old friends, it’s a great gathering spot.” 

“My favorite part is the locals coming out, seeing some friends you don’t get to see too often, seeing some new faces, it’s a pretty cool event seeing so many people come out and support us,” Franchini said. 

After it was all said and done, and the numbers came in, Franchini revealed that 804 people were fed on Saturday–lower than what they originally expected or hoped–which was likely caused by the foul weather and the cold rain. 

No matter how much, or how little, came out on Saturday the fire chief was still grateful:

“I just want to thank everyone very much for all your support, it really helps and it means a lot.”