Evening temperatures drop, leaves crunch beneath your feet, a hint of fall is in the air.
The pregame parking lot barbecue smell and cheers from the stadium signal the start of the Cowboys' football season.
And there they are — wearing their white shirts, Crook County Culinary Arts students serving up tri-tip sandwiches during their annual Cowboy Kickoff Barbecue.
"We're just trying to create those traditions," says Crook County High School culinary arts teacher Macy Hagensee. "I want our barbecue to be as traditional as people coming out to the first game of the year. You come to the first game of the year, and you know that Crook County Culinary is going to be barbecuing something."
The Cowboy Kickoff Barbecue kicks off the football and culinary season at 6 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 8 at Ward Rhoden Stadium when the Cowboys take on the Sweet Home Huskies at 7 p.m. The $7 box dinner includes a barbecue tri-tip sandwich with two sides and a sweet treat.
Proceeds will go toward the football program and the expanding Crook County Culinary Arts program.
"There's going to be a lot of new kids. Looking at my rosters, there's not a lot of names I recognize, so I think I'm going to do a play on that and a trial by fire with some new people," Hagensee said last week. "I'll see who volunteers and use it as an opportunity to gage the talent — like a tryout under fire. It should be a lot of fun."
He says the Cowboy Kickoff is an opportunity for his students to get out there and be seen right off the bat.
"I want to try to get us out there in the public and let them see what we're doing. It's where they need to be," Hagensee said. "That's how you keep a program. That's how you keep interest, is to be out there in the public. That's what I'm supposed to be training them to do."
But Hagensee has been talking to some community leaders and others in the culinary industry and realized he needs to start offering his students more than just cooking skills.
"What we've been talking about is trying to figure out ways that we can start training this next generation to be more hospitable," Hagensee said. "The writing on the wall is the days of extraction resources in Crook County are gone. How many more years are we going to be able to send five or 10 of our graduates out to Schwabs?"
He and others in the community feel like the real future of Crook County is going to be access to recreation in the Ochocos.
"If recreation is going to be our next boon, then we need to start gearing up for that and training up for that," Hagensee said.
That's where he comes in.
His endorsement is in hospitality and culinary, and he plans to start incorporating more hospitality-related concepts into his classes this year and will eventually offer a hotel, restaurant and tourism class. He has new text books on the topic and says he wants to drive home the idea of kindness, politeness, being inquisitive and soft skills and get young people ready for an entry-level job in the hospitality industry.
Hagensee has reached out to local resorts and restaurants in hopes of setting up some job shadows and trainings. He would also like to align his classes to the culinary school in Bend and to the hospitality management school at OSU Cascades.
"We'll start fitting these kids into a larger block of the service industry," Hagensee said. "I think that's where the majority of the jobs are going to be in the future."