Some 300 attended the dinner at the Eagles Hall. At left, brothers Ryan and Brendon Goss, left, and Dan Buell pick items in the Chinese auction.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Seats were at a premium on Saturday night for the annual Game Dinner hosted by the Adams Outdoorsmen for Youth.
"It's still going," said President Wayne Tinney of the organization founded 37 years ago by James Carpenter. "We started small with a small game supper to benefit the youth of the community."
That small game supper has evolved into a smorgabord of game cuisine - donated and cooked by volunteers - that some 300 people attended this year
"It's the largest game dinner in the area," said Michael Cutler, the nonprofit organization's vice president.
The dinner is a major fundraiser for the organization, which aims to teach youth about sporting and the outdoors.
"Our goal is to support children in keeping close to nature," said Cutler. "We teach children archery and fishing."
In the years since Adams Outdoorsmen for Youth's humble beginning, membership has increased significantly, and currently there are 135 "family members." Membership in the organization, Tinney explained, covers all members of a family.
Members range in age from babies to 85-year-olds, and adults come from various walks of life.
"We have bankers, construction workers, carpenters, retirees," said Tinney. "Members that started as kids are now bringing their own kids to events."
At the annual dinner held at Eagles Hall in North Adams on Saturday the 300 members and guests may have had found it difficult to decide which dish would most please their taste buds: salmon with newberg sauce, deep-fried cod, game chili, grilled or marinated venison, pheasant casserole and black bear pot pie, to name a few.
The "kitchen crew," headed by Cutler, put in long hours for three days preparing for the event.
"I've been in culinary arts all my life," said Cutler, who was employed by Williams College for 32 years and now is a substitute teacher in culinary arts at McCann Technical School in North Adams. "I recruited several students in culinary arts to help out, and they made desserts."
Some of Cutler's hunting friends donated rabbit, deer and black bear meat.
At the dinner, a raffle and Chinese auction generated additional funds. Prizes included kayaks, sports equipment, getaway trips and a weekend at the Williams Inn. The money raised at the game dinners is used to support organizations and programs that are child-oriented, such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Babe Ruth League.
"We also sponsor football, basketball and soccer programs," said Tinney
The Adams Outdoorsmen for Youth awards educational scholarships to high school seniors and camp scholarships to children ages 6 to 15. Though any high school senior in the Berkshires may apply for the educational scholarship, camp scholarships are given only to members.
With money collected at fundraisers, Adams Outdoorsmen for Youth hosts a three-day outdoor event for members at Randolph Pond in Cheshire.
"It's for moms and dads as well as the kids, some families camp out," said Tinney. "We have a fishing derby, and give trophies to the kids in each of three groups who catch the smallest fish and the largest fish."
In the spirit of fairness, the children are divided into age groups for the fishing derby: youngest to 6 years, 7 to 11 and 12 to 15.
Children who do not own a fishing pole or who are novices need not fear that they will be left out. Help is near.
"We have fishing equipment available for those who need it," Tinney said. "And we instruct the kids one on one.
"The first thing we teach is safety. Always safety first," he emphasized. "We teach them how to hold a fishing pole, bait a hook, cast, and reel in a fish.
"Seeing a smile on the kids' faces when they are fishing, makes all the work worthwhile."
For information about activities and membership, contact Tinney 413-743-1510.
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