As golds, yellows and reds swirled around the intersection of N.C. 150 and Sherrills Ford Road in Terrell, temporary signs directed motorists to the 50th annual Rehobeth United Methodist Church barbecue Nov. 12.
Churches throughout the region host barbecues each fall, attracting thousands of guests for an afternoon of fellowship, friends, community and fine cooking.
One hour before opening at Rehobeth, the entrance to the dining room at Rehobeth church was quiet. Four long rows of tables were neatly set, with condiments, apple sauce, pickles and coleslaw lined up along their centers. A crew of volunteers was busy in the kitchen making last-minute arrangements for the guests that would soon arrive.
"It's very much a churchwide event," said the Rev. Bob Kerr. "It's great fellowship, a place where new friendships are made."
Everybody had a job to do. Kerr and his wife, Linda, were on the cleanup crew, busy tidying up at the kitchen sink. Dot Holdsclaw, 80, of Sherrills Ford and Guy Ross of Terrell were behind the serving window, ready to deposit generous helpings of barbecue, sweet potatoes and a roll on every plate.
Dee Greene of Sherrills Ford poured a fine cup of sweet tea, tea or water. Gwyneth Reiman, 8, an endless bundle of energy and smiles, helped with everything. She was there with her mother, Jeri Reiman of Mooresville.
For just that one day, the church with an average Sunday attendance of 180 ballooned into a community of about 1,200. The doors opened at 11 a.m.
"It's a well-oiled machine," church member John Pellor of Terrell said as guests began to arrive.
Among the first were friends Andy Lineberger of Denver and Dallas Gaddy of Mooresville. They sat at Table 1.
"We barbecue-hop," Gaddy said as Lineberger scooped up some sweet potatoes for his plate. "Their sweet potatoes are the best." Table 1 was full by 11:18 a.m.
Beckham Bustle, 2, sat at Table 2 with his mother, Megan Bustle, of Cornelius and her parents.
"He's been so excited. He's been talking about it all week," she said. "We come every year." Table was full by 11:35.
Table 3 filled up at noon. Table 4 followed shortly after that, brimming over with happy guests by 12:10 p.m. Ted Kratt, 8, and his dad, John Kratt, of Mooresville were the last seated there.
"We just thought it would be fun," Kratt said of the church event. "We like barbecue."
And it began again. Each table seated eight. They were lined up in four rows, with four tables to a row. In that first wave, Rehobeth UMC served 128 barbecue lovers, and that didn't include the carry-out line.
"We stay open until we run out of barbecue or we run out of people," Greene said as she made another circuit of the room with her pitcher of sweet tea.
By day's end, at around 7:30 p.m., the last bit of barbecue had been served and the last guest had waved goodbye. Rehobeth United Methodist Church had served 2,500 pounds of barbecue, plus sweet potatoes, coleslaw, rolls, desserts and drinks to more than 1,200 people.