There’s a good chance nobody would have noticed the trailer wasn’t square, but it weighed on Joey Jurewicz and John Bozovich, who deliberated whether or not it was worth tearing apart and doing the whole thing over. It was. They would know. The BBQ smoker would mark their final high school project before graduation, and they wanted their lasting legacy to mean something.
“It’s an integrity thing,” Jurewicz said.
The two friends had known each other since freshman year when they entered the Ag program at Campbell County High School with FFA Advisor and Ag education teacher Kristi Holum. During their four years together, the two had learned a lot from their teacher about both agriculture and life, including the value of integrity, patience, and understanding.
There are things in life that sometimes suck, Jurewicz said. Like doing projects over and fixing someone else’s mistakes.
“Holum taught me that a lot of things go wrong in life,” Jurewicz said, “and it’s your attitude that’s going to make all the difference.”
As high school seniors with a lot of welding training already under their belts, the two had done the lion’s share of the work, fabricating and welding the trailer. Because so many different students were working on bits and pieces throughout the day, and in various classes, some of the younger, less experienced kids had sometimes messed up their welds and threw it out of square, leaving the boys no choice but to rip it apart and do it over.
“It taught me to be patient,” Bozcovich said, adding that they’d been there themselves just a few years back.
Putting the thing together in the first place had been a major challenge for Holum, who started the project after being asked by Thunder Basin Principal John Ostheimer to make a BBQ smoker for school events and parties.
Initially, Ostheimer asked for one BBQ with two separate sides, for charcoal and propane, which over time grew to two cookers, with an attached sink and water heater, all on a trailer to pull them. For a teacher used to helping kids make grill guards and feeders, a smoker was a bit of a stretch. Add to this that no existing plans to build such a BBQ existed, as most people fabricated them out of old propane tanks. Then there was the issue of actually building one that worked, which drove Holum to the internet where she found some handy sites to help with the math and other fine details.
“Who knew that smoke boxes had to be a certain size or that the length of the exhaust pipe made a difference in taste?” Holum asked.
Wednesday, just two days before its inaugural roll-out at big school event, Holum and her Ag mechanics class were putting on the final touches with help from plumber Jim Butler, who’d stepped in at the last minute to help put in the sink.
“Now, that we couldn’t do,” Holum laughed, as she watched the boys help hook the trailer to a pickup to pull it out into the parking lot for a test run.
In total, around 40 students helped in varying degrees with the project.
Sitting in the parking lot like two hulking bulls waiting to go to market, complete with thunder bolt handles, the two 24” x 60” wide BBQs were now equipped for hot and cold smoke, charcoal and wood, and up to around 450 burgers.
The project went so well that Ostheimer is considering including it as part of their permanent curriculum, making the customized smokers available for sale to help fund other Ag-based programs. Holum is still tabulating the receipts for the cost of materials, which she estimates to be around $4,000 (excluding all the free labor!). Assuming they can sell the grills for somewhere between $8,000 – $10,000 each, it could bring in some substantial money for the school.
And who knows, next time they might be able to accommodate Ostheimer’s request for a folding table that doubles as a fender.