The Chicken-Q has been a part of Bethel United Methodist Church's history as long as any of its patrons can remember, and now two of the directors of the yearly October luncheon are saying farewell to their position, welcoming new management as well as a new pastor.
The secret Chicken-Q sauce, a made-from-scratch recipe handed down since the Chicken-Q's inception, will soon be delivered into new hands as luncheon co-chairs Sue and Bob Bussart relinquish their role to others.
The Bussarts have been co-chairs with another couple for the past seven years, and say that this year is their last.
"It's been a good time, but we're ready to not have all that responsibility on us," said Bob Bussart. "My wife and I organize all the supplies and oversee the packing up of the plates, as well as setting up and cleaning up when the lunch is over."
The 56th Annual Chicken-Q lunch will be held on Oct. 15 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each plate will include half of a BBQ chicken, baked beans, applesauce, a roll and dessert.
Bussart said cooking the chicken is a feat in itself.
"We'll have around 50 to 60 gallons of sauce, and over 2,000 pieces of chicken, and it takes around 12 hours for it all to get cooked," he said. "When the fire pit is at its fullest, we'll have around 20 guys manning the pit."
Bussart said that people like the consistency and quality of the Chicken-Q, which is why everything from the chicken sauce to the apple sauce has remained the same all these years.
"One year we changed the baked beans, and people got really upset about it," he said. "This year Ingles, where we get all of our supplies, had to order Whitehouse applesauce especially for us because they don't carry it. People get so used to the taste."
The lunch is always a hit, with a little more than 2,000 people on average purchasing tickets each year. This is the church's only fundraiser, and last year the Chicken-Q sold 2,060 plates.
A limited amount of tickets for the meal are on sale for $8 each, and the meal can be picked up to go at the church at 100 Lumpkin Campground Road South, or eaten there.
The Bussart's departure from Chicken-Q oversight is part of a wave of change for the church, as they welcomed a new pastor to their congregation on June 19.
The new pastor, David Sanders, 47, has come to Bethel from Sunnyside United Methodist Church in Griffin.
Originally from Macon, Sanders has been a pastor for 14 years, and moved to the Dawsonville area with his wife Krista and two daughters.
Sanders said his wife is an auditor for the state, and his daughters Gianna and Bailey are students. Gianna is a senior at North Forsyth High School, and Bailey is a seventh grader at North Forsyth Middle School.
Sanders received his master of divinity and theology from Asbury Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky and his doctor of ministry from Mercer University.
Before he was a pastor, Sanders worked as a mental health counselor, having received a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master of arts in education and community counseling from the University of West Georgia in 1993 and 1996, respectively.
In his spare time Sanders is an avid runner, and has run many half-marathons. He said he is excited to get to know the Dawsonville community, where he hopes to stay for many years to come.
"The folks up here have been so welcoming," Sanders said. "I was host pastor at camp meeting this summer and everyone was so nice. Right now I'm just getting to know everyone and developing relationships with people in the church and in the community."
As for the Chicken-Q, Sanders said he's heard that it's a big deal, and awaits the day with anticipation.
"I've heard the church is a well-oiled machine when it comes to the Chicken-Q," Sanders said. "I'm looking forward to see how it is done. I'm just going to do whatever they tell me to do."
Bussart said that Sanders has asked a lot of questions, and that when the day comes he will get to experience first-hand how the entire church comes together for those few days.
"He's so excited because people keep talking about it and it's hard to imagine without seeing it," Bussart said. "He'll get his feet wet. We'll break him in."
Sanders took the post in June after being assigned to the church. Bethel's previous pastor, Orin Sampson, retired after his 70th birthday, and still attends the church today. Sampson was the pastor at Bethel for seven years.
Bethel has been a part of Dawson County since the 1800s, and has been at their current location at 100 Lumpkin Campground Road South since 1939, when a team of horses moved the then-white frame building across the street from Lumpkin Campground, where it was built around 1850.
The church holds a contemporary service at 8:45 and a traditional service at 11:00 every Sunday Morning, as well as Wednesday night Bible Study.
Advance tickets for the Chicken-Q are available through the church office Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Call (706) 216-6220 for more information.