Rotary Club's chicken dinner kicks off Oktoberfest week

Volunteers were out at 8 a.m. cooking chicken for the annual barbeque.

From the smoke and smell of barbeque in the air, it was hard to miss the Ottumwa Rotary Club's annual chicken barbeque kicking off Oktoberfest week in Ottumwa Tuesday.

For 40 years, Oktoberfest has begun with the dinner, which takes dozens of volunteers cooking since the early morning hours to prepare for. Over 4,000 chicken dinners are cooked on the 180-foot grill, but all the hard work is worth it when the people start pouring in.

"I enjoy doing it and having the camaraderie and seeing Rotarians that you normally just see for an hour on Mondays and we're spending the day with them," said Jay Messerschmitt, Ottumwa Rotary Club President. "I think a lot of these guys - especially the ones that are here now and maybe that were able to be here and put the day in - there's a lot of volunteers, we've got a couple non-Rotarians here even and it's fantastic."

Messerschmitt said the Rotary Club hopes to save $5,000 from Tuesday's proceeds to use for a project for the group's 100th anniversary in 2016. They also hope to donate $5,000 to Indian Hills Community College's incubator project that breaks ground later this month, as well as continue their efforts on projects around the community.

The chicken dinner runs until 7 p.m. Tuesday and tickets are $9 for adults and $7 for children at the event.