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story.lead_photo.caption Jason Strickland/News Tribune Joshua Stockman, a sargeant for the Cole County Sheriff's Department, flips hot dogs on a grill Tuesday evening during the department's annual barbecue at the Jefferson City Jaycees Fairgrounds.

While the funds raised from the annual Cole County Sheriff's Barbecue help the department in various ways, Sheriff John Wheeler sees the event as part of his department's community policing efforts.

"While the funds raised do help our programs like DARE, this event also is a way for our deputies to interact with the public in a setting other than a time that could be one of the worst for them," Wheeler said. "It goes along with the neighborhood watch and school resource officer programs we do.

"Just getting around and walking and talking to the people that come here can lead to some great interaction with citizens that may not happen without this event," he said.

Wheeler said the barbecue's roots can be traced to the late Sheriff Wyman Baysinger, and Tuesday's event at the Jefferson City Jaycees Cole County Fairgrounds was welcomed by the sheriff and his department after canceling last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I can't tell you how many citizens ask me every year, 'When is your barbecue?'" Wheeler said. "They enjoy having a good time and getting out and talking with their friends."

At the front of the building where the meals were served, uniformed deputies greeted people. There were also various pieces of equipment the department uses on display.

"We want the people to see how we are utilizing our money for them," Wheeler said.

Wheeler said the amount of money raised during the barbecue varies, but most of the time it brings in $3,000-$4,000.

"We wouldn't be able to do this and collect that money without the help of the volunteers that come out and do this every year," Wheeler said. "There's such a tremendous volunteerism in this county.

"The Marine Corps League, the Sheriff's Posse and others donating their time. We have family members of the deputies who also help, and they are all the key to this event's success," he said.

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