Concessions hot item on opening day|[5/15/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 16, 2005

At 5:30 Saturday morning, U.S. Marine Cpl. Clay Grafton reached Vicksburg after a 900-mile jaunt from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

It had been six months since he had seen his parents, Donna and Clint, and his brother, Chris. All were waiting on his arrival, not so much to catch up, but to get to work.

“We said, ‘hello,’ and then we were off to work,” Clay Grafton said.

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Fifteen minutes after his all-night drive, Clay Grafton and his family were en route to the Bovina Soccer Complex. For the next 17 or so hours, the Graftons, along with a bevy of other volunteers, cooked burgers, hot dogs and sausages with little respite. Customers started lining up for burgers at 7:30 Saturday morning and by 2 in the afternoon, more than 800 pounds of ground beef had been eaten.

“We can get about six burgers out of a pound of meat, so you do the math,” Clint Grafton said when asked how much money the $2 burgers made the VSO during the first day of the President’s Cup soccer tournament.

Most of the ground beef was stored at the Bovina Texaco and Donna Grafton had already put in an order for 500 pounds of ground beef.

“We’ve gone through 200 pounds of sausage and 100 pounds of hot dogs,” said Donna Grafton during one of her few breaks. “Look out there, though, and you see all those kids working. We’re doing this for the kids.”

Concession stands were set up all around Vicksburg at each of the different soccer sites. Donna Grafton’s main job was cooking, but she also made sure the other stands were operational.

“Some people may think we’re a little crazy,” said Clint Grafton, standing in a blazing sun. “Everything’s going well, though.”

Donna Grafton believed she would be done cooking for the masses around 6 or 6:30 Saturday night, but the officials were having a banquet Saturday evening and Donna Grafton was back over the flame cooking steaks and corn on the cob.

The Graftons figured their Saturday would end sometime in the late evening and maybe then, they can get caught up with their son, who served seven months in Afghanistan.

But then again, today is the tournament’s second day and the family will be back at it again bright and early.

“We’ll be back before we know it,” said Rachel Grafton, Clay’s wife.

Sales should be brisk again today as more than 3,000 people from around the region descended on Vicksburg for the weekend tournament. The parking lot at the main complex showed cars from countless counties around the state.

By Monday, the parking lot will be empty. The grill that added 20 degrees to an already hot day will fall silent and Donna Grafton will be able to relax.

“I took Monday off from work,” she said. “Monday’s Donna’s day.”