MARQUETTE — Steve Piper has been a member of the United Methodist Church since he can remember and said the church’s annual barbecue has stuck to tradition since the beginning.

“The Marquette Pit Barbecue began around 60 years ago when a citizen of Marquette came home from the war. He was so affected by the war that he devoted his life to God and serving others,” Piper said. “He wanted to start a donation for the church after the 1905 tornado; this is how the barbecue came about.”

The 56th Annual Pit-Roasted Beef Barbecue will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 20 at the United Methodist Church, 404 W. Second St. in Marquette.

Years ago, men of the church dug out a pit that was 8 feet wide, 20 feet long, and 4 feet deep to cook the meat. Out of the many years the event has been going on, Piper said there has only been a couple of mishaps that occurred.

"We only had one big failure when many many years ago it rained really hard and washed out the barbecue from the pit. We salvaged some of the meat and served ham that year,” Piper said. “But a couple of years ago we had high wind, so we cooked it in ovens and other barbecue cookers it still turned out real well.”

Piper is overwhelmed with how much the church has evolved and how generous members have been at the event.

"Everyone takes part and helps put the dinner on, even children help out by clearing and cleaning tables that night," Piper said. "Its a fundraiser, but also a good way to bring church members together."

New this year to the barbecue is Pastor Jeff Graber. Members are excited to welcome Graber and his family and will be putting them to work as well.

For three long nights, members of the church gear up for the event.

On Monday night, members cut around 1,200 pounds of meat, season it and wrap it in aluminum foil and then it goes to Piper's cooler to chill over night.

On Tuesday, members start the meat in the pit where it cooks slowly over 20 hours.

"We burn hedge posts to cook the meat over. Hedge posts should be aged well to help season the meat. Then we build a fire with nice charcoal, line it with sand and aluminum foil and set the meat down in the pit. We then cover it with tin and fill it all over with dirt again and sits for about 20 hours while the meat cooks," Piper explained.

A fire truck is on standby to ensure everyones safety while using the pit.

On Wednesday, the pit masters open the pit around 2 p.m. to start preparing the dinner.

The rest of the meal includes real mashed potatoes and gravy, which is made with the broth from the meat, buttered corn, pasta salads and home-made pie.

The dinner is free, but free-will donations are suggested. Extra meat is also sold by the pound and carry out is offered as well.

"We keep doing this because it's a great community event and people come from all over and eat dinner," Piper said. "Its quite a production."

Contact Brooke Haas by email at bhaas@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter @MacSentinel