10/08/09 — Pork Chop Barn here to stay

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Pork Chop Barn here to stay

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 8, 2009 1:46 PM

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W.G. Simmons, left, and Bill Betterson cook the pork chops for their sandwiches at the Walker Memorial United Methodist Pork Chop Barn at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair.

It started under a simple tent -- dozens of members of Walker Memorial United Methodist Church slinging pork chop sandwiches to passersby at last year's edition of the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair.

They sold drinks out of coolers, dealt with mud the rains left and were tested daily by the heat and cold that accompany fall days in eastern North Carolina.

"It just was not a good place," said W.G. Simmons, a member of the congregation.

But the sandwiches were winning over the crowd -- so much so that long lines were commonplace near the tent.

So this summer, a group from the congregation decided to make their mark on the fairgrounds, to provide a home more fitting of the name "Pork Chop Barn."

Simmons was among the five or six who spent months constructing the new barn those who attend the last few days of the fair will see.

"It's more attractive to the public," he said of the freshly painted building furnished with refrigerators and a stainless steel kitchen.

"We've had a lot of people just stop and look."

"We wanted it to look like a barn," added Charles Daly, another member of the congregation. "That was real important."

And it does -- right down to the red door.

Selling pork chop sandwiches at the fair is helping the church raise money for its new sanctuary.

But Steve Smith said working a shift at the fairgrounds is about more than the money. "It's good fellowship," he said.

But if how many sandwiches they have at the end of the night is any indication of how their fundraiser is going, the congregation seems to be succeeding.

By 10 p.m. Friday, the barn had sold out of pork chop sandwiches.

But not before John Red-ding picked up two -- one for his walk around the fairgrounds "and one for the ride home," he said with a smile Saturday after making another stop for his fair favorite.

"Look. It's by far the best thing to eat at the fair this year," he said, taking a bite out of the sandwich he had covered with hot sauce. "I know people think about corn dogs and cotton candy and all at the fair, but this is what they should be thinking about. Maybe after the fair I'll go by the church and see if they'll make me some."

The fair might be winding down but those manning the Pork Chop Barn did have some good news for Redding.

Their stand -- and the pork chop sandwiches that make it a popular destination -- will be back next year.

"It's permanent," Daly said. "I mean, we can move it, but we hope that doesn't happen."

Redding hopes so, too.

"You can't give a man a pork chop sandwich that good and tell him he can't have it again," he said with a laugh. "That just wouldn't be right."