Picnic to help town make new memories

A Wichita restaurant owner and a group of North Carolina barbecue masters are planning a Fourth of July celebration in tornado-flattened Greensburg.

06/20/2007 1:01 AM

01/24/2008 5:15 PM

Larry Burke's memories of celebrating the Fourth of July as a kid in Greensburg are quintessential small-town America.

There were fireworks stands on nearly every corner, he said, and he and his brother Dennis would buy bottle rockets from nearly all of them.

They would spend their days swimming and then join the rest of the town at the high school football stadium for an evening fireworks display.

It's important, he said, that the people who survived the May 4 Greensburg tornado have a chance to make their own happy Fourth of July memories.

Burke, now a 61-year-old Wichita restaurant owner, hopes to get things started with a picnic using the help of seven lawyers known as the PigMasters from Greensboro, N.C.

The PigMasters cook traditional whole-hog North Carolina barbecue using fire pits. They donated their services to Hurricane Katrina volunteers and were moved to help people in Greensburg, too, said co-founder Kevin Morse.

"The point is to provide the people in the town of Greensburg just an evening to have some fun, relax and to know they're not alone in the world," Morse said. "That's about it, really. That's all we're trying to achieve."

Morse said he and the other six PigMasters decided about a month ago that they wanted to cook 10 pigs for Greensburg. It'll take about 14 hours.

Burke, who owns the Copper Oven Cafe & Bakery in Wichita, is collecting donations for a fireworks show and drinks for the picnic.

"The Fourth of July in Greensburg and Kiowa County are always big... kind of a community coming together," he said.

Because most of the town was destroyed by the tornado, most Greensburg residents are living in surrounding towns.

"When you have people scattered around like marbles on a field, there's no sense of community," Burke said. "This is something I feel will help regenerate or help with a sense of community."

The event, he said, will be most important to the "young, strong" residents who will rebuild the town.

"Memories are everything. Everything else is just stuff," he said.

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