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Masons to host 46th annual barbecue, parade

Photo by Joel Hall
The Jonesboro Masonic Lodge is preparing for it's 46th annual Fourth of July Parade and Barbecue. The long-standing tradition will take place next Saturday, starting with a parade leaving Jonesboro Middle School at 10 a.m.

Photo by Joel Hall The Jonesboro Masonic Lodge is preparing for it's 46th annual Fourth of July Parade and Barbecue. The long-standing tradition will take place next Saturday, starting with a parade leaving Jonesboro Middle School at 10 a.m.

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

For nearly half a century, members of the Jonesboro Masonic Lodge have gathered to serve more than 3,000 pounds of slow-cooked barbecue to the community, topping it off with a Fourth of July Parade through downtown.

Next Saturday, the long-standing tradition will continue for the 46th year. The Jonesboro Masonic Lodge's annual Fourth of July Parade and Barbecue will take place July 3, with a parade from Jonesboro Middle School to the Jonesboro Masonic Lodge, starting at 10 a.m., and barbecue plates will be served at the lodge from 11 a.m., to 6 p.m.

Meals of barbecue pork shoulders and ham, bread, pickles, chips, Brunswick stew, and tea will be available for a $6 donation, the proceeds of which will go toward the Masonic Home of Georgia, a 650-acre facility in Macon that provides shelter for needy children, and pays for their higher education.

Bill Conkle, secretary of the Jonesboro Masonic Lodge for 43 years, and a member for more than 50 years, said that the masons took over the parade and barbecue tradition from the now-defunct Jonesboro Volunteer Fire Department. He said the fire department hosted the celebration for 15 years prior to the masons, making it one of the city's longest-running traditions.

"The Jonesboro Volunteer Fire Department had it for 15 years before we had it, so that would make it about 61 years," Conkle said. "It's a social event as well as a barbecue. It's for the masons, their friends, and their neighbors to get together and have a good time."

According to Conkle, the barbecue is an incredible undertaking. He said lodge members spend several days chopping enough logs necessary to line two, 30-foot barbecue pits behind the lodge. On the Friday before the barbecue, 3,200 pounds of pork shoulder and ham are put into the pits and are left to roast for almost an entire day before being served, he said.

"I eat a lot of barbecue ... I visit a lot of Masonic lodge fund-raisers," Conkle said. "Everybody thinks theirs is the best, naturally. I would say it's the best I've had, and I've been eating it for 45 years, so I know it's good."

Prior to the barbecue, a Fourth of July Parade will take place starting at 10 a.m., at Jonesboro Middle School, located at 1308 Arnold Street. According to Jonesboro Masonic Lodge Master John Hallman, the parade will be free to join and will travel on a path west from the school, north and south on North McDonough Street, and back to the lodge.

"There's all kinds of civic organizations that put cars or walkers in there ... Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts," Hallman said. "Every other year is a big political year, so there are always some of those in the parade."

Hallman said Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox will serve as the grand marshal of this year's parade. Marchers will start lining up at Jonesboro Middle School at 9 a.m., he said.

Maddox said the parade and barbecue are one of the few traditions that continue to give the city a "hometown" feel. "It's one of the oldest traditions we've got," he said. "It keeps Jonesboro a small town."

The Jonesboro Masonic Lodge is located at the corner of King and North McDonough streets in Jonesboro.