Everett church’s annual dinner has one wild menu

EVERETT — It’s a wild feast.

Tonight, elk calls and elk meatballs are on the agenda. So are buck knives, a Winchester rifle and a life-sized blacktail deer.

The 8,400-square-foot gymnasium at Bethany Christian Assembly in Everett is set to become the scene of the 17th annual Wild Meat Dinner. It’s scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. at 2715 Everett Ave., Everett.

“Originally, we were only going to have the dinner one time,” said Phil Thompson, who, along with his wife, Darlene, has helped organize the event since 1992. “Now, it’s taken on a life of its own. My theme every year is, ‘even Christians can have fun.’ “

That theme has paid off.

The dinner originally was the brainchild of the Rev. Rollin Carlson, who served Bethany Christian Assembly from 1981 to 1995. A hunter, Carlson asked Phil Thompson to organize a wild game dinner to raise money for the church’s men’s ministry. Today, the event raises roughly $6,500 a year for the ministry, which provides audio, visual and printed materials for missionaries around the world.

Attendance has grown, too. Just 68 people attended the first dinner. More than 300 people are expected to attend tonight, Darlene Thompson said.

World champion elk caller Chad Schearer has been invited to speak for a second year in a row. He’s expected to demonstrate elk calls during his presentation, she said.

Schearer is a guest host for the “Black Powder Guns and Hunting” television show, which airs on The Outdoor Channel and Fox Sports-South.

To set the stage for the feast, volunteers hang roughly 60 wild animal mounts on all four walls of the gym. There are elk, cougar, bear, deer, sheep, goats, birds and a few species from as far away as Africa, Phil Thompson said.

Organizers also plan to raffle autographed buck knives, a 7 mm Winchester rifle, taxidermy gift certificates, baskets filled with handmade chocolates and other items, Darlene Thompson said.

All this provides the ambience for the main event — a menu that this year includes elk meatballs, deer, bear, moose, wild turkey, beef roast, salmon, mashed potatoes, vegetables and cake.

The menu varies each year because it’s based on donations made by local hunters, Phil Thompson said. Some years the meal has included ostrich, wild goat, rattlesnake and emu.

Whether it’s the menu, elk calls or raffle items that draw people in, the dinner is a family affair, said Phillip Fox, who brings his four sons each year.

Phil Thompson and Fox are both modern rifle hunters, Fox said.

That’s not a requirement.

The event draws men, women and children — hunters and nonhunters — from all walks of life. Some come from as far away as Montana, Fox said. He estimated that just 20 percent of those who attend are from Bethany Christian Assembly.

So how do all those wild animal mounts make their way to the walls of Bethany’s gym? And where do they all come from?

It turns out that quite a few Snohomish County residents have giant trophy rooms filled with mounts. A few of them bring collections of as many as 15 to 20 mounts to the dinner.

Starting about 4 p.m. Saturday, a procession of men in pickup trucks is expected to begin pulling up to the gymnasium at Bethany to deliver their prized hunting trophies.

Alan Moro of Moro Taxidermy in Lake Stevens is one of them. For the past eight years, Moro has brought his life-size, world record-holding blacktail deer mount to the show.

To get the gym ready, Phil Thompson and a crew of roughly 35 people work in two teams to set up the chairs, tables and mounts, while others work in the kitchen to prepare the feast.

Fox said he comes back year after year for the food and to listen to the speaker.

He also won a rifle one year, he said.

He’s been hooked ever since.

Reporter Leita Crossfield: 425-339-3449 or crossfield@heraldnet.com.

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