An annual tradition that draws thousands of people to one of Gage County’s smallest communities will once again be held this February.
Every year the Liberty American Legion Club Post 346 holds an all-you-can-eat shrimp feed.
Post Commander Jim Barr said the event has been a tradition for more than 50 years. back in those early days around 200 people would travel to Liberty for an evening of food.
The event has grown significantly since then.
“Last year we served 1,300 people,” Barr said. “Our ticket count was 1,268 and figure we served 30-40 more kids and people that helped.”
The shrimp feed will be helped Saturday, Feb. 16 from 5-8 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door or $18 in advance, and kids under 12 years old are half price.
Barr and other members of the Legion and Legion Auxiliary said the big draw is that all the food is homemade, and buses come from all over the area to get their fill of shrimp.
And the club goes through a lot of it.
Barr said for last year’s shrimp feed they purchased more than 1,200 pounds of shrimp, 900 pounds of beef fires, 370 pounds of potatoes, 125 pounds of coleslaw and 24 gallons of ketchup.
The event also features three cash bars that the line weaves past, so guests can enjoy a beverage while waiting for their food.
In addition to mass quantities of food and drinks, the event wouldn’t be possible without the help of volunteers.
Barr said that like many area Legions, membership has been shrinking. The Liberty Legion currently has 38 members, and the Auxiliary has around 20. As a result the club depends on additional help, including students from Southern School in Wymore.
“It’s a Legion and Auxiliary fundraiser, but we can’t do it with just those members,” he said. “We don’t have many. We don’t have any World War II veterans left, and our Korean War veterans are very few and they’re not able to help anymore because they’re in their 80s. We’re not unique. The other small towns are the same way.”
The shrimp feed wouldn’t happen without the support of volunteers, and the building couldn’t stay open without the shrimp feed.
The club uses funds from the event for upkeep on the building, as well as heating and other utilities.
The building is the town’s community center and is used once or twice a month for wedding and graduation receptions, funerals and other events. It’s also a Red Cross shelter for the area.
“If this place wasn’t here, where would people go?” said Legion member Larry Husa. “It plays a huge role in keeping the community together. If we didn’t have this there would be nothing. The shrimp feed plays a major part not only Legion wise, but civic-wise supporting the area.
“If we didn’t have this fundraiser we wouldn’t be able to keep it open. We have all these expenses, heating, cooling and insurance. It just takes a lot of coordination and a lot of help besides the Legion Auxiliary. We get people in the community who aren’t members but they come and help.”
The club is something its members take very seriously, and have a lot of pride in. Husa said he didn’t realize, himself, how much effort was put into the club until he received an award for his service.
“I’m in the reserves and I was lucky enough to earn the Military Volunteer Service award last year and to do that you have to do a write up why you deserve to get this medal,” he explained. “I did it on the functions of this Legion. You don’t think about it a lot when you just do stuff here and there but I had to start thinking about all the stuff we do.”