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Annual Westfield Ox Roast canceled

WESTFIELD — For the second consecutive year, a staple event in Westfield has been canceled due to the pandemic.

William Bills, chairman of Westfield’s annual Ox Roast, announced this year’s event which was scheduled for Sunday, July 11, will not be held. “Due to the various COVID restrictions and requirements currently in effect we will not be able to host the Westfield Ox Roast in 2021,” Bills said.

Bills said the committee overseeing the Ox Roast made the difficult decision to cancel the event after on-going discussions with Chautauqua County Health Department representatives. Participants would need to be tested for COVID, and anyone attending would be required to show proof of a negative test.

With the limited manpower available, the Westfield Firemen’s Exempt Association that hosts the Ox Roast each year would not be able to ensure the requirement and others could be met.

“With the uncertainty of which COVID restrictions will be in place come July, our committee could not place this year’s event and future Ox Roasts in financial jeopardy by ordering food and other goods and then having to cancel at the last minute. It is our hope the Ox Roast will return bigger and better in 2022,” Bills said.

The Ox Roast has been a staple for summer celebrations in the various villages and cities of Chautauqua County for decades. The Ox Roast and its connection to the Westfield Fire Department dates back to 1896 when Fireman’s Day was held.

The tradition of an annual Ox Roast in Westfield began on Sunday, July 13, 1947, at Ottaway Park on Route 5 in the town of Westfield. That first annual Ox Roast was held from 1-9 p.m., and in addition to the beloved ox-roast sandwiches there were pony rides and races for children, bingo, and a band concert.

For the next 10 years, the Ox Roast was held on different weekends during the month of July, but in 1956 the second Sunday of July became the expected weekend for the event. Beginning in 1964 music was performed by the “Dueutschmeisters” band. For decades that followed the Deutschmeisters were the highlight for thousands of Ox-Roast attendees playing many sets from early afternoon until the last delicious sandwich was consumed and the final prizes awarded.

In a joint statement issued by Ed Kneer, president of the Westfield Exempt Volunteer Firemen’s Association, and Westfield Fire Department Chief Chris Reese, both said they know the tough decision by the committee to cancel the Ox Roast this year will be met with disappointment, but they understand it was necessary to ensure the Ox Roast will be financially viable for many years once the pandemic ends.

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