MARION - Growing up in Southern Illinois, chances are that unless you're a vegetarian you probably consider chicken and dumplings comfort food, particularly if those dumplings are handmade, not out of a can.
That probably explains why over 600 people showed up for lunch last Friday at Marion's Zion United Church of Christ where the biggest draw was the homemade, handmade chicken and dumplings.
That turnout put a smile on Pastor John Holst's face when he paused briefly while mixing a fresh pan of slaw in the church kitchen.
"In the 10 years that I've been here, we always have a great response from the public and it's always great to see our church members pull together to make this happen."
Michael Lazorhak is chairman of the popular event.
"This as been a tradition here for several decades now and the great people of Marion really support it," he said. "Our folks work really hard on it. They began Thursday morning at 5 a.m. cooking, then picking the meat off the chicken, working the rest of the day preparing the dumplings and then showed up again here today at 6a.m. for a full day of cooking, serving and cleaning up afterward."
There was one hungry church member who said he couldn't wait to eat after arriving at noon.
Retired Marion farmer Robert Fietsam says he can't remember ever missing out on the dumpling dinner.
"I've been a member here since I was born 91 years ago and wouldn't miss one," he said.