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First Friday brings burgers, bands and brews

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ROCK: Reverend Boogieman performs at the Honeywell Center plazaas part of First Friday in July.
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BREW: Zach Bohner and his staff at Chapman’s Brewing serve patrons who visited the taproom during First Friday, which Bohner says is the busiest day of the month for his crew.
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GRILL: Gary Henderson flipsburgersfor Smokin’ for a Cause during July’s First Friday in Wabash.

by ANDREW CHRISTMAN - achristman@wabashplaindealer.com

Lines stretched down the steets as hundreds of hungry patrons came for a taste of food truck fare that has become a popular feature of First Fridays in Wabash each month. An estimated 1,500 patrons attended the street fair this month.

Among those taking part was Gary Henderson of Smokin’ for a Cause, who worked with his team to provide smoked meats and sides on the corner of Market and Wabash streets.

Henderson said his group started in 2013 after his kids and sons-in-law bought him a smoker and issued a challenge to see who could be the best. 

“I don’t even think they had a smoker at the time,” Henderson recalled.

After 13 teams gathered near the museum for the group’s first contest, nearly $6,500 was raised for the local life center. Henderson’s son-in-law, Kyle, was the one credited with coming up with the group’s name and the group has been cooking for various causes ever since. 

Henderson estimates Smokin’ for a Cause has raised more than $60,000 since its inception. Donations stay local, benefitting nonprofits like 85HOPE, a free health clinic in the county.

Other groups use First Friday to bring attention to their businesses. That’s the case with Amanda Shambarger of K&A Grillin’ and Chillin’. Shambarger said she and her husband Kevin set up a booth along Miami Street to showcase the company’s products and connect with the community.

“For us, it’s a way to get out in the community and meet new people. A lot of people don’t realize we do grills; we’re not just fireplaces and pellet stoves,” Shambarger said. 

Downtown businesses also benefit from the increased foot traffic in the area, such as Chapman’s Brewing. Taproom Manager Zach Bohner said it’s always the busiest day of the month, with new and returning faces coming into the brewery. 

“It’s the best day for us to get a ton of feedback from a lot of people,” Bohner said.