LEEPER - They started the cooking fires around 5:30 a.m. about an hour earlier than usual, hoping people would come as they have for so many years in the past.

The Farmington Township Volunteer Fire Department always has its popular chicken dinners available "to go," but this year, each and every dinner had to be "to go."

With COVID-19 guidelines restricting large outdoor activities to no more than 250 people, and essentially shutting down in-door dining, Farmington VFD officials decided to try an all drive-through service chicken barbeque dinner event -- complete with raffles in order to maintain the department's fundraising efforts.

Signs were put up and the word was put out. But would people come as they have in past?

Oh yeah.

People in their vehicles started lining up well before the scheduled 11 a.m. starting time.

The drive-through pick-up line came in off State Route 36, split into two service lines and exited safely unto State Route 66 with the assistance of fire police.

Runners from the kitchen to the service line delivered adult and children's meals and whole chickens as quick as the birds came off the open-pit fire tended by firefighters.

One customer picked up 19 meals.

The large cooking fire roasted 300 to 400 chickens at a time. Each batch took about 90 to 120 minutes to cook and each chicken was checked with a digital meat thermometer to ensure it was properly done.

As the line of cars moved forward, customers had the opportunity to purchase prize raffle tickets and gun raffle chances. T-shirts and other paraphernalia was also available for sale.

In addition to chicken, the meals included side dishes and a dessert.

Fire company officials said the community support was overwhelming, astonishing and very much appreciated.

Firefighters thanked the many community-area businesses and individuals who helped with the event and donated prizes for the raffle.

Prize winners at the event include:

4Rustic American Flag - Aaron Lencer

4Bag of firewood, hot dog stick, mountain pie maker - Michele Hughes

4$250 Cash - Michelle Bailey

4Briar Hill Wooden Rocker - Rebecca Fulton

4Decorative wooden stool and Bettina's Italian Restaurant gift card - Susan Donahue

4Six-foot picnic table - Pauley Hargenrader

4$100 Cash - John Sharpe

4Metal American flag - Diane Heasley

4Smith's Country Store/Montana's Country Cafe gift certificates and hair product basket - Diane Heasley

4Metal fire pit - Kathy Maxwell

4Milwaukee Drill - Cheyenne King

4Steinman Farms 20-lbs. ground beef & cooler - Milly Cussins

4Sports package - Joey Broad

4Slow cooker and Vince's gift card - Gina Amsler

4MK purse & wallet - Taylor Sherbine

4Little Tykes picnic table and umbrella - Greta Lutz

4Scratch-off tickets and fireman boots - Steve and Brenda Hoover

4Piney Trail Riders & Vince's gift card - Mike Marrone

4Little Tykes basketball hoop and balls - Brenda Hoover

4Monopoly game, LED flashlight, firefighter gloves - Michelle Hughes

And the 50/50 winner was Mike Gilara.

The Farmington Township Volunteer Fire Department Farmington Township, half of Knox Township and half of Highland Township with a coverage area near 120 square miles.