SHILOH -- To Rose and Joe Harris, the Shiloh Fire Department's annual ox roast is a family reunion.
The couple, who raised five children in Shiloh from 1956 to 1979, travels "home" from their current residence south of Canton, every July for a juicy, beef sandwich and a chance to reconnect with old friends.
"We have lots of friends here," Rose Harris said.
It's true, their daughter Carol confirmed.
"Everybody knows them," she said.
Carol and her parents could be spotted Friday morning at the 53rd annual event, as some of the earliest customers. They were eating their sandwiches and an array of sides at a picnic table. But when a familiar face passed by, they were quick to set aside their food and instead focus on the conversation.
"I've already seen my best friend from when I was growing up here," Carol said.
She now lives near Detroit, and hadn't been able to visit for the Shiloh Ox Roast for several years.
"I didn't have to work this year, so I knew I wanted to come down for it," she said.
At 11:30 a.m., only a half hour into the event, a line had already formed. More than a dozen volunteers worked tirelessly, handing out sandwiches by the bag.
"That's just the way it is on Friday," said Kurt Felver, an auxiliary member of the fire department. "By 6 p.m. tonight, we'll have a line out across the railroad tracks."
He estimates preparations for the "one-of-a-kind" event began two months ago. That's when the department booked vendors, musicians and determined how much beef to order -- 9,000 pounds.
The beef, he explained, is then cooked in an underground pit.
"It's basically a big earthy oven," Felver said. "It gives it that extra-tender flavor."
Ashland resident, Barbara Fenn says she eats her sandwiches plain.
"It's juicy enough on its own," she said, giving a thumbs-up sign.
The food drew her in, but it's the fond memories of the event that keep her coming back year after year.
"It's the whole atmosphere of it all and how you see people you haven't seen in a while," she said.
The Shiloh Ox Roast runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Beef sandwiches are sold for $4 apiece and will be from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday. The beef typically runs out before the 7 p.m. parade. The last sandwich in 2018 sold at 5:47 p.m. Saturday.
Live music is planned Friday and Saturday night. The Roadhouse Band plays Friday night, and the Honky Tonk Heroes play Saturday. Both offer free admission.