Donnie Gossert of Quincy has been overseeing the food for about 25 years. He and several other volunteer workers will cook up 2,500 pounds of boneless top and bottom rounds of beef this weekend in two gas-fired roasters.
The beef is steamed on racks in the huge metal roasters. The resulting broth is used for soups, potatoes and gravy and the beef is sliced or ground for sandwiches.
"We used to use a wood fire," Donnie's wife, Molly, said. "I miss the wood smoke, but it's more efficient and predictable with gas, and it's easier to check on the beef."
Donnie Gossert said he would put 1,000 pounds of beef in the cookers Saturday night in preparation for today's meals.
"I salt and pepper the heck out of it," he said. "It takes the top rounds about five hours to cook and the bottom rounds three hours. Then we trim it, slice it and grind it; that's all we do."
"We make 600 gallons of beef corn soup for Sunday," he said.
Besides the streetlights, proceeds go to help the Boy Scouts and Little League baseball, and to provide a place for the Quincy Panthers to play football.
The ox roast did not start at the community center.
"The very beginnings are obscure, but the festival was held in different fields," Molly Gossert said.
She said she remembers when it was in Benedict's Woods on Manheim Road. The festival moved to the community center in 1964.
On Labor Day, the volunteers serve a sit-down meal with sliced beef, potatoes, gravy and filling.
The pepper slaw is popular, and was made by one family for many years.
"It's a secret recipe," Molly Gossert said, "and a lot of people really like it."
Carry-out is available. The Gosserts said a man from Baltimore shows up every year with several containers and gets 25 gallons of soup to take home.
The ox roast is a tradition, Molly Gossert said.
"Not a carnival. It's an old-fashioned, corny festival, and that's the way we like it."
Always held on Labor Day weekend, the event features pony rides, balloon entertainers, games of chance, 5-cent bingo and oldies music.
The 13th annual Cruzzz Night was held in conjunction with the ox roast.
At the end of three long rows of classic cars Saturday afternoon was a 1959 Chevrolet Apache panel truck owned by Randy Beam of Waynesboro. Beam bought the truck 13 years ago and uses it for shows, parades and educational programs at churches and schools.
The only thing more arresting than the sight of the antique truck with "The Undertaker" emblazoned on it was the casket towed behind it on a small trailer.
"It's real casket," Beam said.
Painted to match the truck, the casket carries the slogan "Drugs and Alcohol Kills Kids."
Beam said he had talked to the Drug and Alcohol Task Force of Franklin and Fulton Counties and they wanted him to come up with "something unusual."
"It has paid off," Beam said. "One boy was bad into drugs and alcohol, and now he's fixing up an old Chevy truck and he has no time to drink anymore."
Beam said he also talked to a girl, at her mother's request, about her drug and alcohol use.
"I asked her if she wanted to get inside the casket and see what a ride is like. She went into the house crying," Beam said. "Now she goes to church several times a week."
"Some people call me weird, but I figure if it gets the message across, that's what matters."
A sign on the trailer recognizes the memory of Beam's brother, David S. Beam, who died 20 years ago at age 28 of a heart attack.
Beam's son, Randy Jr., accompanies his father in the truck to some events. The younger Beam said he likes the truck because "it goes fast."