HAWK SPRINGS – The Hawk Springs community has held a hamburger fry each summer month since 1989. In other words, there have been 90 consecutive hamburger fries in 31 years.
June 2020 proved to be the month that broke the streak, as its host, Hawk Springs Community Building Association, decided to cancel the event due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Secretary-Treasurer of HSCBA and longtime town resident Venita Cochran said she is disappointed, but it is a sacrifice they have to make in the age of COVID-19, just like those being made in communities around the country.
“If we had [the hamburger fry] and someone got sick, it’d be horrible,” Cochran said. “They could die.”
Cochran said the majority of guests in previous years have been people who are at high risk for the virus. After consulting community members, Cochran said the consensus was that they should cancel.
“I don’t remember talking to anyone that said ‘oh yes, we’ve got to have it,’” Cochran said.
The benefits of the annual hamburger fries are twofold: on one hand, there is food, the musical stylings of the Torrington Fiddlers and the opportunity to see old friends and make new ones, Cochran said. On the other hand, the fries are more than a time for fun. For the HSCBA, they pay the bills.
The Hawk Springs Community Building, formerly the Hawk Springs School built in 1939, is the venue for the hamburger fries, among other events like community meetings, educational activities, recreational activities, and fundraising activities, according to the Goshen County Economic Development website.
HSCBA also rents the space for functions like weddings, showers, graduation parties, and more. Its place in the community was made possible by a $300,000 Community Facilities Grant overseen by GCEDC in 2008, which funded a remodel of the bathrooms and kitchen, new flooring and painted walls, according to Cochran.
Utilities and insurance are the main costs fielded by HSCBA that are funded by events like the hamburger fries. Without these, the corporation is struggling to pay for insurance that protects the building from unexpected damages, like hail storms, according to Cochran. The most recent monthly insurance bill, Cochran said came to $2,871.
The price of admission for the fry that has paid this bill in the past was $7 for adults, $3 for children ages six through 11 and no cost for children five and under. Normally, roughly 30 people would contribute desserts and salads, volunteers would fry hot dogs and hamburgers on an outdoor grill and the Torrington Fiddlers would play for only the price of a plate of food, Cochran said.
Last year, the hamburger fry attracted 147 people in June, 174 in July and 235 in August. The jump in attendance in August can be attributed to homemade ice cream that is included with the fry that month, Cochran said.
Due to unforeseen circumstances surrounding COVID-19, events in a venue like the Hawk Springs Community Building are difficult to hold this summer, as they would require at least six feet of social distancing between groups, someone to serve food rather than relying on buffet-style eating and the ability to sanitize door knobs often.
“By the time we did that we wouldn’t make enough money to make it worth our while,” Cochran said. “We need to fill the place in order to make it worth our while.”
This means the HSCBA is relying on donations from the community.
Cochran created flyers, which she said will be mailed to Hawk Springs residents and posted in nearby communities like LaGrange, Yoder and Torrington, explaining their situation.
“Will you help us?” the flyer reads. “If you are able to make a contribution, it would be greatly appreciated.”
In underlined print, it reads, “no amount is too small.”
According to Cochran, there is still hope for the revival of hamburger fries come August, the month of homemade ice cream, but its fate is still to be determined. They need to consider public health guidelines and the progression of the coronavirus in the area, and on top of that, Cochran said she questions whether or not the community will be comfortable coming to the event, though it is one that holds “a lot of sentimental value” for community members whose parents attended school in the building many years ago, or those who sat in its classrooms themselves.
“It’s just really up in the air,” Cochran said.
A fundraiser has been established to assist the continuing maintenance and operation of the Hawk Springs Community Building. Contributions may be sent to the Hawk Springs Community Building Assocation, P. O. Box 116, Hawk Springs WY 82217.