People came to Mackay’s Free Barbecue for the beef but stayed for the booths and games set up by various organizations.
Staffers at some booths took the opportunity to bring awareness to new developments in their organizations. The Lost Rivers Medical Center in Arco used free body mass index tests and blood pressure tests to introduce their new community health workers. Those workers specialize in preventive health care, helping people predisposed to certain illnesses learn how to avoid future ailments.
Most booths were designed to raise money for events and organizations. Billy Warble, who has been coming to the barbecue since he moved to Mackay 13 years ago, raised money for a Halloween carnival and donations to schools in Mackay.
All four classes at Mackay High School peddled drinks and sweets to people waiting in line for lunch, offering refreshments once the day turned hot. According to the students working at the sophomore booth, the high schoolers wanted to raise money for their graduations.
Other booths used the barbecue as a chance to show off and attract attention. Lost River Robotics used a portable 3D printer to make miniature toys and gadgets to sell. Whistles, puzzles and movable figurines created by the printer were placed next to robotic toy dogs 4-H members had built using LEGO kits.
According to Earl Lockie, a member of the South Custer Historical Society, the barbecue has been an institution in Mackay for more than 80 years. Since cattle ranchers tried to blow up the Mackay Dam in 1933, members of the Idaho Cattlemen Association have put on the barbecue. What was meant to be a show of apology has become a tradition.