Eggs & “Ribbing” It’s The Chuckwagon Tradition

The cathedral windows of the livestock pavilion glow warm amber as day breaks on Iowa State campus. Within, a quiet roar of conversation builds as alumni, faculty and students gather for the annual Chuckwagon Breakfast. Animal science professors don aprons to fix omelets and chat over steaming camp stoves.

According to animal science lore, the event dates back to the mid-1970s when department chair Bud Ewing had the idea to host a social for the department at Brookside Park.

Doug Kenealy, professor of animal science, recalls the early days at Brookside.

“It was cooked on the Block & Bridle homemade charcoal grill – a monstrosity that could hold hundreds of bratwurst or pork chops, which were typical fare for early Chuckwagon Breakfasts,” says Kenealy. “Inclement weather caught us more than once and umbrellas and parkas were seen on the cooks. So, at some point more than a decade ago, we moved to the Farm Bureau Pavilion, also known as the old ISU Meat Laboratory.”

The Chuckwagon Breakfast has since become a staple on Homecoming morning on ISU campus. Bringing together 400-plus animal science students, alumni, faculty and friends, the event offers a chance to catch up on where life has taken them, share successes, solicit advice and do a bit of good-natured ribbing.

“People search out their favorite faculty to fix their omelet. Waiting for the omelet to cook gives us time for visiting,” says Steve Lonergan, professor of animal science and event chair.  “I think its key to success is the relaxed atmosphere, the conversation and the slow pace of the event. People really have fun with it.”

Lonergan jokes that faculty and staff volunteer to fill the cooking slots, but not everyone has what it takes. He says a few have been asked to “greet” rather than fix omelets. Maynard Hogberg, professor and chair of animal science, likes the way faculty and staff work together on the event.

“It is good for our faculty to work together in a social setting.  It brings them together to get to know each other and build esprit de corps, or camaraderie,” Hogberg says. “It also gives us a venue to share noteworthy occasions with our friends like recognizing past judging teams or honoring retirees.”

The 2009 breakfast honored retirees Lloyd Anderson and Al Christian who have each served Iowa State for 50 years. The event also included the announcement of Marvin and Janice Walter’s gift towards building a new Agriculture Pavilion.

For a slideshow from the 2009 Chuckwagon Breakfast visit: