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The annual NMC Barbecue, hosted by Northwestern Michigan College, for the past thousand years, is everything I love about our community. Volunteers come together to make it all happen, and the community gets to hang out with their friends, neighbors and relatives for a picnic under the pine trees at the college.

And the barbecue is right around the corner, on Sunday, May 21, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $6 online or $8 when you get there. A great deal either way!

You don’t mess with a good thing, which is why year after year, people stand in line to get their buffalo burgers, beans, potato salad, coleslaw, relishes and more, including the ever popular ice cream in little plastic cups. We never plan on meeting anyone there, but of course, run into friends and neighbors, including my brother Dean and wife Laura the past couple of years.

Last year, a grand total of 7,678 people attended the 61st annual NMC Barbecue or received home-delivered picnic meals in 2016.

The late Gerald W. Oleson and his wife Frances, founders of Oleson’s Food Stores in Traverse City, started the annual fundraiser picnic in 1956. Oleson’s Food Stores continue to donate the food, and hundreds of volunteers turn out to make the event happen.

Here’s a photo of the Oleson’s buffalo on M37 headed out towards Chums Corners. Below are some of the events scheduled for this year’s barbecue.

oleson, buffalo, nmc barbecue
A couple of buffalo on Oleson’s buffalo farm on M37 heading to Chums Corners | Jane Boursaw Photo

Here is a partial list of events happening during the 62nd annual NMC Barbecue, Sunday, May 21, 2017:

  • Picnic Lunch
    • Menu: Buffalo burger or hot dog, beans, potato salad, coleslaw, relishes, ice cream, & beverages – all generously donated by Oleson’s Food Stores
    • Again this year: Compostable plates, cups and forks and composting of food waste. Volunteers help patrons properly dispose of used items. Help make the Barbecue a zero-waste event.
  • Opening Ceremony, 10:45 a.m.
    • Presentation of Colors by the U.S. Coast Guard
    • National Anthem – NMC music student Rebecca Nye
    • Serving lines open at 11 a.m. after opening ceremony
  • Activities & Games
    • Free Activities: Inflatable obstacle courses and more presented by the National Guard; Traverse City Fire Department antique fire engine rides; ride Chip (the faux buffalo) and wave to friends via the live webcam.
    • Children’s Book Readings: Curious George and Bad Kitty—with special guests, Curious George and Bad Kitty! Readings will take place every hour from 12:30-3:30 p.m., with a visit from the National Cherry Queen at 2:30 p.m.!
    • Kid’s Games: Hair Painting, Skee Roll, Frog Launcher, Wheel of Fortune and more! Ticket purchase required.
    • Cake Walk: Including a cupcake walk for kids! On the half an hour from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. One lucky winner will receive a full size cake, while all other participants will receive a cupcake to take home. Ticket purchase required.
    • Demonstrations: NMC Tae Kwon Do Club, 1-3 p.m.
    • Popcorn and Cotton Candy Tent: Ticket purchase required.
  • Alumni tent
    • Alumni who update their info have a chance to win a prize!
    • Construction project updates
    • Kayak Raffle – to benefit NMC students through the Barbra Griner Mikowski NMC Student Nurse Resource Fund.
    • Photo gallery: NMC Through the Decades
    • Quilt Raffle – to benefit NMC students through the George C. Comden Alumni Scholarship Fund.
    • Scholarship Open sign-up
  • Baby Care Station
    • Courtesy of Great Start Collaborative/Traverse Bay
  • Biederman Building
    • Northwestern Michigan Orchid Society display in the atrium
  • Classroom and Program Displays: Health & Science Building
    • Chemistry Laboratory HS 215, noon–3 p.m.
    • Dental Lab HS 110 & 112, 11 a.m.–2 p.m.
    • Grand Traverse Astronomical Society High School 114 & 116 (11 a.m.–4 p.m.), telescopes outside north entrance (weather permitting)
    • Physics Laboratory HS 211, 1–4 p.m.
    • Science classroom display HS 117, 1–4 p.m.
  • Del Corner Veterans’ Tent
    • A special seating area for veterans and their families to mingle
  • Dennos Museum Center
    • Bonsai Society display in Sculpture Court by the Sakura Bonsai Society of Northern Michigan
    • Galleries closed due to construction
  • Outside the Tanis Building
    • Aviation
    • College for Kids
    • Engineering Technology
    • Extended Education Services
    • Great Lakes Water Studies Institute
    • International Club
  • Shirley Okerstrom Fine Arts Building
    • Pottery Sale & Ceramic Studio. Noon-4 p.m.
  • Tamarack Lot
    • Antique Firetruck Rides
    • Automotive Technology/Hybrid Vehicle
    • NMC Barbecue Invitational Car Show: Vote for the People’s Choice Award!
    • Free activities provided by Michigan Army National Guard: Inflatable attractions and more!
    • NMC Student Veterans of America dunk tank
  • West Hall
    • NMC Bookstore: Selling NMC logo wear and gifts, lower level of West Hall. 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
    • From the Tamarack lot walk north to West Hall, take stairs to lower level, store is at east end of West Hall.

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