Our Story & Mission
The annual Manchester Chicken Broil is held annually at the Alumni Memorial Field in beautiful Manchester, Michigan, just 15 miles southwest of Ann Arbor. This long-time civic event is considered the largest event of its kind, serving approximately 10,000 meals in a four-hour period.
The Manchester Chicken Broil is organized and run entirely by volunteers from the Manchester community area, traditionally primarily men, some of whom have served for over 60 years continuously!
The various committees and volunteers consist of such specialties as: Firemen, Chicken on Grids, Chicken to Pits, Charcoal Pits, Chicken Testers, Chicken to Serving Table, Cole Slaw and Take Out. Approximately 250 men work on these committees. The processes are efficient and carefully timed to ensure a smooth flow of 10,000 dinners in four hours (about one meal every second!).
The cooking committees are supported by about 300 men and women in eighteen other committees, serving a variety of food, beverage, take out, transportation and public services.
The Manchester Chicken Broil receives help from Manchester’s Boy Scout Troop 426 and Cub Scout Pack 421. Scouts take on tasks such as folding boxes for the takeout line and getting the chicken pots ready.
Community sponsors round out the support of this much loved event.
Net proceeds from this event are used to benefit a variety of causes in the Manchester area, including the public schools, community parks, library and local civic organizations. Funds from recent years have been applied to downtown Christmas season decorations, and for major renovations to the Kirk Park ball diamonds, infrastructure and children’s playground equipment associated with our youth baseball and softball leagues.
Funds from the 2016 Chicken Broil were applied to renovations and repairs at the Kingsley-Jenter House Community Meeting Place, hosted by the Manchester Area Historical Society.
The 2017 Chicken Broil proceeds were used to construct new ticket booths at the High School football field, and to provide support for the 2017 Manchester Sesquicentennial celebration.
The 2018 Chicken Broil funds supported completion of the Manchester Shared-Use Trail, and decorative lettering at the new MHS Athletic Field artificial turf.
The 2021 proceeds were donated to the Manchester Area Historical Society.
Currently, the 2022 and 2023 funds are going to upgrade Chi-Bro Park with new and updated tennis, basketball and pickleball courts.
For a complete list of the use of proceeds, download here: DONATION LIST.
To understand how the Broil came into being in Manchester, one needs to look briefly at the world of the 1950s. We were a simpler, more isolated small town with a higher percentage of adults who had grown up here. Most folks knew almost everyone they met on Main Street. Stores stayed open on both Wednesday and Saturday nights until 10:30 and people saw a lot of each other there. On Thursday afternoons, the businesses closed and many gathered for an afternoon of golf in the summer months. When a merchant died, stores closed out of respect during the funeral. Most of the townsfolk attended a local church each Sunday where weekday associations again could be strengthened.
These intimate and friendly relationships became a powerful force binding the base group together, greatly simplifying how decisions were made. There wasn’t much need for extended planning sessions or think-tank groups when everyone knew what should be done to attack a problem in the community, and the group involved was small enough to include all concerned. These same powerful qualities were present in the service clubs of Manchester in the 1950s. One of them, the Exchange Club, contained local business men and met regularly to carry out its mission.
The Exchange Club was to become the primary mover in the development of the Manchester Chicken Broil. These successful business men understood how to make decisions and get things done effectively. Among them were a hatcheryman and feed mill operators who had memberships in poultry associations including representatives from the Poultry Division of the State Agricultural College in East Lansing, Michigan. A primary objective of the poultry association was the increased use of chicken to stimulate their businesses.
Dr. Howard Zindell, Poultry Division, Michigan State College, developed a new method of cooking chicken. J. M. “Mac” Moore and Harry Hathaway, from MSC, were also interested in this new method. Chicken halves were slowly barbecued over charcoal and basted with butter (another agricultural product) just before serving. Since there were no commercially made cookers then, fifty-five gallon drums were cut in half lengthwise to hold the charcoal and then fitted with legs. Special grids were built to cover the cooking areas, and then later modified to make turning them easier so the chicken halves wouldn’t fall out. The process and equipment were shared by the college, and available staff members came out to communities like ours for demonstrations and consultation. Farm TV programs like WPAG-TV aired demonstrations of the process to inform viewers, and articles about broiling chicken appeared in farm magazines.
This method of cooking chicken was tried in neighborhood groups around town, many of whom built their own cookers. It was also tried by the Exchange Club membership to test the system as well as to develop methods to serve larger groups. The Club came to realize that chicken barbecues might be used as fund raisers.
Hence, the first Manchester Chicken Broil was held August 12, 1954. About 2000 meals were served that first broil, and net profits were $ 1,075.00, used for the Athletic Field fence.
(Excerpted from Manchester Chicken Broils: Celebrating 50 Years, published by Manchester Chicken Broil, Inc., 2003)