News and Tribune

July 18, 2013

A lot at ‘steak:’ Cattlemen’s Association ribeye sandwich booth brings its own crowd

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

CHARLESTOWN —

They don’t use 11 herbs and spices and depending on who’s asked, any number of factors contribute to the sold-out success of the Clark County Cattlemen’s Association’s annual ribeye sandwich sale at the 4-H Fair. 

But whatever makes the sandwiches as good as they are, Allen Darrah, 84 of Charlestown, has made sure he’s one of the first 10 people in line “forever,” because once they’re gone, they’re gone for another year.

“We just like their steaks,” Darrah said. “I always make sure to get five of them every year for me and my family.”

He said every now and then, he goes for seconds when he can. He doesn’t know what it is about the Cattlemen’s ribeyes, but they’ve got just enough fat on them to keep them perfectly juicy.

Scott Abbott, president of the association, said he thinks the secret of the sandwiches lies in their charcoal grill. He said they’ve been selling the sandwiches at the fair for 21 years. 

While crowds come in for livestock and other exhibits, he said the Cattlemen’s tent has its own following.

“It’s become an annual thing where people come in just on Thursday nights for this,” Abbott said. “They pull into the fairgrounds, come in on their way home from work, pick up six or seven sandwiches and have dinner at home.”

He said usually the association cooks up 1,100 steaks. With a line going all the way from the Cattlemen’s tent to the exhibition buildings, they sell out in two or three hours. He said at $7 a pop, people expect a quality product. He said to ensure that, members of the association hand-pick the steaks at Olde Towne Grocery every year. Proceeds from steak sales pay the entry fee for every 4-H’er who exhibits cattle at the Clark County 4-H Fair and helps fund the annual John Bottorff Scholarship.

Bryan Crace, secretary for the association, said he thinks the secret comes from their choice in the cut of meat. He said the grill has something to do with it, too.

“We can cook 100 at a time on there,” Crace said. “You can take that same pack of meat home with you and cook it on your own, but it won’t taste the same. It doesn’t matter if you cook it on charcoal or anything else.”

Ivan Miles, vice president of the association, helped man the grill this year. He said he remembered when they started using the grill they have now, the coals got too hot and popped the tires on the outside. But he said while the grill has a factor in the steaks, making sure it’s the right temperature makes all the difference in the world.

Mike Galligan, one of the first board members for the association, said he’s remembered years where they’ve sold 1,300 steak sandwiches in two hours.

Elise Johnson, 24 of Henryville, has worked the fair in a funnel cake booth with her family for about seven years. She said whatever the secret is to the sandwiches, she’ll make sure she and her family gets a few as long as they keep returning to the fair

“They don’t need sauce, they’re not dry, they’re perfectly juicy,” Johnson said. “I think doing funnel cakes, I don’t eat them much. But this is a big reason why I came to the fair. There’s always a line, so if you don’t get one early, you don’t get one.”