Thomson Fire/Rescue's spaghetti fundraiser called in two secret weapons to raise at least $1,300 for Relay for Life.
The fire chief's mother was the top ticket seller, again. Betty Sewell-Parish sold 110 of the roughly 400 tickets for the $7 meal at fire headquarters.
And a brisk wind carried the lure of the garlic bread across the McCommons Street neighborhood.
"Oh my gosh, it just drew me right in," said Wanda Sisson, of Thomson. "I always sell tickets, no matter what they're serving."
Fire Chief Rick Sewell said his mother is usually among the top ticket sellers for fire department events. It's not just because of her sweet disposition; she really works at it, he said.
"She doesn't ask whether they want any tickets," he said. "She asks 'How many do you want?' "
The chief's wife, Iris Sewell, said her mother-in-law has to be in the right mood to sell fundraising tickets for spaghetti or steak dinners but agreed "she's our best ticket seller."
Sewell-Parish said her strategy is simple.
"I just get out my hit list," she said. If a regular customer should pass up a fundraiser, she said, she tells them, "That's OK; someone else will buy it."
Melissa King of Thomson stopped to pick up a carry-out dinner on her way home from J. Maxwell Elementary School. She said she bought her ticket from Parish-Sewell, who does clothing alterations for her. "She does a great job," she said.
Apri Guin of Tignall, working the serving line right next to Sewell-Parish, was packing dinners with spaghetti, salad and the garlic bread. She admitted the garlic bread smelled good, and "I'm sure it tastes good, too."
Keith Beggs of Thomson said he attends most of the firefighter dinners, no matter what is being served. "It's always delicious," he said.
The garlic bread drew plenty of favorable comments. "It'll make the whole neighborhood want to come to dinner," said Trudy Matthews of Washington, Ga., who was on her way home after a day at the Fowler & Wills law firm.
Andy Stephens of Boneville described the garlic bread as "vampire proof."
"We followed our noses here," said Tommy Montgomery, of Thomson.
Libby Ansley of Thomson agreed the garlic bread is "buttery and good."
The chief took a moment to explain the extra precautions the crew takes during a fundraiser. The trucks are moved outside, and more firefighters are available.
"Seriously, he said, "you could get a call during a dinner. That always has to be in the back of your mind."
Addressing the menu, he said, "Well you just can't have spaghetti without garlic bread. It's not spaghetti without garlic bread."
He said the exact donation to Relay for Life would be determined after expenses are tallied. "I'm hoping that we have $1,300 or $1,400, maybe more," he said.
Firefighter Matthew Owens tended the 400 pieces of garlic bread that sent their invitation on the wind. After more than an hour of grilling the bread and packing it into foil, Owens was no longer aware of the garlic. "Can you smell it? I can't smell it," he said.
Over at the spaghetti boiler, Lt. Chip Bentley's work was getting less attention, although he had prepared "six pounds per cooking, 17 cookings." He admitted, though, that garlic bread just has a stronger appeal than boiling spaghetti.
Asked to divulge the recipe and secret ingredient, Owens obliged. Pointing to a pile of empty freezer boxes, he said, "Garlic."
It was all too much for Jimmy Ansley of Thomson. "I'm trying to lay off the bread," he said after dinner. "I shouldn't have eaten it, but I did."