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WV Proud

Washington Community Building association annual Ramp Feed

Washington WV

Washington Bottom Ramp Feed
Saturday, April 30, 2011 in Washington, WV

Continuing the tradition, this Annual Ramp Dinner was open to the public from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Washington Community Building on 892 (Dupont Road). For a mere cost of $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12, you could eat your fill of ramps, beans, cornbread, ham, fried potatoes, applesauce with coffee and tea. The boarding house style service event was presented by Washington Community Building Association and this event was chaired by David Lawson (304-863-3311) and Vernon Lowers.

Washington WV Ramp Dinner

We spoke with David Lawson and he shared with us some interesting morsels about the event and its sponsors. There's some debate about whether this dinner is the largest in the area; we can tell you with certainty that the building could seat about 100 people total and for the brief time we were there, the place maintained a steady headcount of about 70 folks. In fact, the couple we sat across from said this was the best ramp dinner they've ever been to – and they frequent them all.

Preparation

Previously, they would gather ramps from the mountainous areas in West Virginia; however, the problem with this plan is the upper elevations are often colder and the ramps grow more slowly resulting in a thinner ramp. The thinner ramps take much more time to clean and if you'll keep reading, you'll see why the cleaning thing is so important. So, now, they harvest ramps locally, or in the lower elevations where the temperatures are warmer and the ramps grow much larger. For this meal, it took six people, working in shifts, three weeks to clean ramps. This year 70 bushels were used, consisting of a mixture of red and white ramps. Four people wash the ramps, using a large wash tub, one bushel of ramps at a time. They skin, cut roots, and sort for debris over a mesh wire sieve on a long table. Ramps are then washed and rinsed again in a sink, then stored in five gallon buckets in a cooler.

Cooking

The all-volunteer staff places firebricks in a circle and builds a mini-bonfire. They use an iron pot and bring water to almost a boil and then add one bucket of ramps, cooking for 5-10 minutes, effectively par boiling the zesty leek. The ramps are removed from fire when they foam up and are again stored in the cooler.

Bacon is the main flavoring and this year, about 45 bushels of ramps were mixed with #45 of fried, crumbled bacon; even a portion of the bacon grease is added for flavor.

This year the headcount numbers were 427 adults, 3 children, and 126 carryout plates.

Ramps are, of course, for sale at the ramp dinner, too, selling for $5 a bunch; this year they sold about six bushels.

The crowd was mostly middle to older aged folks; we didn't see a lot of teenagers or young adults enjoying the meal. The dinner did have one distinguished guest: The West Virginia State Attorney General, Darrell McGraw, attended this year's dinner.

Entertainment

One of the best things about West Virginia is the collection of music talent and how, for just about any event, you can find a few, usually older gentlemen, picking some bluegrass and country tunes. This ramp dinner was no exception as the music talent consisted of a banjo, guitar and fiddle. Roy Clark, Jr. and friends entertained the crowd. We snapped a quick video you can see here:

Event Statistics

Here are some quick details on the event:

• About 40 folks volunteered to help.
• The event consumed about $3500 of volunteer labor.
• The event raises about $4000 for the Community Building Association.
• The dinner's peak attendance was 800.
• Many travel from great distances to attend this particular dinner; this time we saw folks from Ohio, Charleston, and Spencer.
• The event is usually held on the last Saturday in April.
• The Washington Community Building is a multipurpose facility, hosting ramp dinners (of course!), providing the community a voting place, and is available for other events, such as family reunions.
• The Lion's Club meets regularly in this building.
• This event was advertised on www.KingofStink.com.
• The food was good and they served it family style.
• We were greeted by a friendly host and seated by an equally friendly staffer – she chose seats across from some other folks just sitting down so as to ensure we would have plenty of hot food – very nice!
• The Community Building was clean and nicely lit.
• Volunteers all had name tags (nice touch) on blue painter's masking tape (low cost!) with their name written with a sharpie.
• Ramp dinners in Washington, WV have been going on for at least 40 years.

Observations

The meal was excellent.  I was surprised to see so many volunteers working feverously to keep the tables supplied with hot food.  I too, participate in some social/civic/service clubs and my clubs consistently are challenged by getting the “all volunteer” club membership to help out with fund raising events.  The Washington Community Building Association should be proud of itself as there were plenty of folks cooking, cleaning, and waiting on tables.  Good show, you all!

The homemade name tags were also a nice touch: you could call a person by name, which is always nice and it adds a measure of accountability to workers.  However, the name tags were a strip of blue painter’s tape, which is another indicator of how this group maximizes the fund raising potential – well done!

Overall, this event is highly recommended, but you'll have to wait until next year!

A photo album is on this link. The pictures start off with some images of DuPont.

Washington Bottom is named after our nation's first president. George Washington surveyed the land in this area and received this parcel of land as payment.

A Historical Thought from the Host

David Lawson

David Lawson is related by marriage, to the late Albert S. Heck, a millionaire who built the Spencer, WV, McIntosh mansion in the 1920’s. Heck’s wife was a school teacher and he was a railroad conductor on the train that went from Ravenswood to Spencer. He drilled wildcat wells and held short terms notes from the Melon Bank in Pittsburg, PA.  Hope Gas Co., also with Melon Bank, convinced Melon Bank not to renew Heck’s notes.  The bank foreclosed on him and he lost his money. Heck had a $100,000 insurance policy he cashed in to pay off his debts.

David Lawson remembers the area of the Roane General Hospital area when the fields were merely meadows of grass. He tells a story of several children of high school age that would go to the McIntosh mansion on weekends, usually as part of a church group and enjoy the grounds with games of the time.

Heck owned a Lincoln automobile in the 1920’s, a portion of which is preserved today.  David has a walnut plaque, made by his grandfather, that has the vehicles’ radiator cap mounted upon it; the cap is adorned with a greyhound logo.

The McIntosh mansion is detailed on the History - McIntosh Mansion page.