By James Beaty
It takes a heap of meatballs to feed those who attend the Italian Festival in McAlester each year.
That’s why volunteers with the organization start so early on their preparations.
They were at the McAlester High School Cafeteria on Saturday, mixing the recipe and starting the initial cooking — which will be completed on the day of the event.
This year’s Italian Festival is set for the weekend of May 18-19 at the Southeast Expo Center and the Pittsburg County Fairgrounds west of the city along U.S. Highway 270.
It’s set to run from 9 a.m. until dark, or maybe a little later, on Saturday and from 10 a.m. until around 4 p.m. on Sunday, according to organizers of the event.
Volunteers want to make sure they have plenty of food for the festival crowds, with meatballs high on the list.
“We usually have about 800 pounds of meatballs,” said Bob Impson, a volunteer and past chairman of the Italian Festival Committee.
Typically, around 20 or so volunteers help out with the meatballs each year, he said. They have it down to a science.
“Everything is made from scratch,” Impson said. “We have people who crack the eggs, mix the bread crumbs and add the seasoning.”
It’s mixed with the meat, rolled into balls and pushed into one of the ovens at the cafeteria.
“There are usually from 100 to 120 meatballs in the oven at any one time,” Impson said.
However, the volunteers stopped short of completely baking the meatballs Saturday. After they were partially baked, or “par-cooked,” the plan called for the meatballs to be transported to a special freezer at the Southeast Expo Center, Impson said.
On the morning of the festival, volunteers will finish cooking the meatballs for inclusion in the spaghetti dinners sold at the festival grounds, Impson. The dinners will include spaghetti, meat balls, Italian sausage, salad and garlic bread, he said.
After working the past weekend, volunteers won’t be getting any rest this weekend, though.
“This Saturday, we’ll do Italian sausage,” Impson said.
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org.