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Bill Kirby Jr.: Some good country eating and politicking down Gray’s Creek way

‘The best I’ve ever seen,’ Karen Graham, the club president, says about the Gray’s Creek Woman’s Club Country Buffet and Bazaar.


Some things you can be assured of in life.

And when the Gray’s Creek Woman’s Club Country Buffet and Bazaar rolls around in autumn, you can be assured Robert and Corey Breece will be there for the chicken ‘n’ pastry and all the fixings.

“I had the chicken ‘n’ pastry, the string beans, the lima beans and the cabbage,” Robert Breece, 67, was saying as he sat outside under a tent on this sunny afternoon that drew a cr, owd of more than 350 people, including a share of politicians in anticipation of the Nov. 8 General Election. “I didn’t get any ham, but I loaded up on the pastry and beans.”

For Robert and Corey Breece, this annual rite that’s been around since 1973, has been a part of their lives since their boyhood days, when their aunt Maybelle Breece Graham was a founding member of the buffet.

“She’d make a 30- or 40-pound fruitcake each year,” says Robert Breece, who believes he has only missed a buffet three times. “Well, maybe 30 pounds. And I hate fruitcake. She just lived down the road.”

Corey Breece, like his brother, is no fan of fruitcake, either. But he enjoys the buffet and bazaar.

“They used to have lunch and supper,” he says. “They’d say, ‘Ya’ll back again?’”

You can bet, the brothers were back for sure. When it comes to country vittles, these ladies to include Libby Dew, Joy Cannady, Susan Walters and Karen Graham from down Gray’s Creek way can cook with the best of ‘em, from the fried chicken to the chicken ‘n’ pastry to the butterbeans, collard greens, fried okra, corn, green beans and candied yams. You can top it off with the cakes and pies. Dennis Walter cooked the country ham down by what he affectionally calls “the branch.”

‘I tried everything’

Ronnie Luck, 74, had just finished off a plate of fried chicken, country ham, collards, green beans and cabbage, and a tasty dessert.

“I tried to get everything,” he would say. “It’s hard to believe a community comes together to put this together.”

He sat near LaRue Windham, 63, who is running for county sheriff.

“All pretty tasty,” the sheriff’s office candidate would say.

Billy West Sr. was there with his son Billy West, the county district attorney.

“I love the pastry,” he would say. “I’ve been coming about 20 years. I like the country food.”

No surprise there. After all, Billy West Sr., is Vander born and bred.

By the luncheon’s end just after 2 p.m., Karen Graham was standing over a sink of dishes.

“Today was awesome,” the club president would say. “We had a lot of people that wanted plates delivered. We had at least 100 plates that went out the door before we opened the doors. And before we opened the doors, we had people waiting in line.”

In all, Graham says, around 400 plates were served, and at one time, she says, the club was filled with 150 diners.

“We had 600 pieces of chicken when we started,” she says, “and at the end no chicken.”

Political faces

Oh, and those politicians were there to talk the political talk and glad-hand when there was an opportunity to solicit a vote. Among them was Wesley Meredith, the former state senator bidding for a return to Raleigh in the N.C. Senate District 19 race; N.C. House incumbent Diane Wheatley in District 43; Judge Mark Sternlicht, who is hoping to retain his gavel as Cumberland County Superior Court judge in District 12C, and his opponent George “Robby” Hicks III; Jonathan Strange, running for Cumberland County District Court judge; John Szoka, the former state House member running for a seat on the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners; Julissa Jumper, bidding for a Cumberland County board of education seat; and Cumberland County Sheriff Ennis Wright, who stopped by to cast an early vote at Gray’s Creek Elementary School, and Windham.

“A lot of people had a lot to say to them, and a lot of people had some heated things to say to them,” Graham would say with a smile. “And they listened.”

And everybody embraced Betty Adcox, the mistress of ceremonies that included the luncheon, the crafts available for purchase and the quilt raffle won by David Pate.


 “It was an awesome buffet and bazaar,” Graham would say, and proceeds will be used by the club to provide three $1,000 education scholarships to deserving students from Gray’s Creek High School or descendants of club members. “It’s the best I’ve ever seen. This community is always here for us, and we hope we are here for them.”

Ronnie Luck gave a look around the dining hall.

“It’s hard to believe,” Luck would say, “a community comes together to put this together.”

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

Column, Bill Kirby Jr., Gray’s Creek Woman’s Club Country Buffet and Bazaar, politicians