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Danielle Jackson

2023 FFA Butchering Day

Held February 10 at Catoctin High School

Photos by Danielle Jackson

The scent of wood burning under kettles, the sound of fire crackling, and the sharpening of knives permeated the early morning air at the annual Catoctin FFA chapter, and alumni Hog Butchering Day. The traditional event took place this year on Friday, February 10, at Catoctin High School. The FFA butchering day is something that families and community members in and around the Thurmont area know and celebrate. They use this time to further strengthen the bonds within this tight-knit community that is nestled within the Appalachian Mountains. Although the event of a family butchering is fading into something that you don’t commonly see anymore, the Catoctin High School FFA and Alumni Chapters are committed to preserving the tradition and teaching the next generation the importance of knowing where their food comes from.

This is estimated to be the 35th year that the school has held this event. Generations, young and old, come to help and participate (myself included, once as a Chapter member and now as an Alumni member). Approximately 100 Chapter, Alumni, and community members participated in this year’s butchering.

This event is held as a fundraiser for the Catoctin FFA Chapter, and the proceeds go toward the Chapter and Alumni banquet that is held in May. This year, the Chapter and Alumni processed 23 whole hogs, with an additional 340 lbs. of ribs, 850 lbs. of pork butts, 660 lbs. of boneless loins, and 560 lbs. of bone-in loins (pork chops) to fill presold meat orders. The hogs and extra meat are purchased from nearby businesses within the community. The hogs are killed, scalded, cleaned, and halved at a USDA-approved facility and then brought to the school. The Chapter, Alumni, and community members take care of the rest. Alumni and Chapter members began setting up grinders, saws, kettles, and tables the night before, and then they were back at the school before the sun rose the next day to get started.

The annual event is also an educational experience that ties in to other areas of the school curriculum as well, such as math, science, photography, social studies, and history. Throughout the day, Catoctin High School teachers, staff, students, and classes visited the butchering to observe and learn how this process is done from start to finish. Some teachers even made assignments for their classes about the butchering. This also lets students see all of the hard work that goes into a butchering and how food is put on their own tables. And it also gives other students at the school a new and better appreciation for agriculture.

Lunch was provided by Alumni members who brought crockpots full of delicious food to share. One of the main lunch options was our very own sausage from the butchering. Chapter members brought the loose sausage directly from the grinder to the skillet that day, a true farm-to-table process. Alumni members were frying up sausage patties for sandwiches.

There are so many people that come together to make this day happen. One of those people is Amy Jo Poffenberger, a teacher and FFA Advisor at Catoctin High School. This is her 13th year teaching agriculture studies at Catoctin High. She is also a former Maryland State FFA officer, and a Catoctin FFA Alumni member. Her favorite aspect of butchering day is that “It is more than a butchering. The involvement from the community and the entire school makes this an educational experience for all.”

Senior Abby Moreland, Catoctin FFA Chapter president, says that “Butchering Day is definitely a unique experience, and you always learn a lot.” She enjoys meeting new people every year and employing the organizational skills it takes to make it successful.

The annual FFA butchering is something that continues to grow with new generations, but it is also something that brings back former FFA members. I spoke with Daniel Myers, who is the head of the FFA Alumni Butchering Committee, a Catoctin FFA Alumni member, a past Catoctin FFA Chapter president, and a former Maryland State FFA officer, and asked him: “What is it like to plan such a large event for the school and community?”

Daniel responded, “Exhausting but rewarding to be able to help educate the kids on how pork is processed. This is such a big event, and it takes a team to pull it off. You also must be adaptable to be able to resolve any issues throughout the day.”

I also had the chance to speak with Kendall Abruzzesse, a past Catoctin FFA Chapter president, and now the current Maryland State FFA president. I asked Kendall what it was like to come back to her home chapter and help this year. She said, “It’s fun! There is a huge sense of pride coming back to this school!” She also brought along her officer teammate Teagan Flaherty, the Maryland State FFA secretary, who had never seen an in-person butchering before.

Orders and profits continue to grow every year for this fundraiser, but it wouldn’t be possible without the chapter, alumni, school, and community working together, communicating, adapting, and working as a team. Catoctin FFA is the only FFA Chapter in Maryland that has an annual hog butchering, and the Chapter and Alumni hope to keep this tradition going for many years to come.

Ryan Tokar, CYA Basketball

March has arrived, and that can only mean one thing: Another season of Thurmont Little League (TLL) is already underway. The registration period for our baseball and softball programs closed on February 11, with over 300 registered players. Evaluations for the Majors and Minors divisions took place on Sunday, February 12 at Catoctin High School. Afterwards, the drafts were held, and teams were assigned so that practices could officially kick off. Despite the chilly weather, our Majors level teams are already hard at work preparing for the annual Garel Hauver Tournament at Brunswick Little League in late March which officially kicks off the season. The rest of the league will begin play on TLL’s official Opening Day, Saturday April 1.

Opening Day is always an exciting event for our league. Family and friends come out to watch all of the players be announced and paraded across the field. The National Anthem is performed by a special guest, followed by the ceremonial first pitch. After other welcoming remarks, everyone hangs around to see the teams take the field for the first games of the season. This year, there will, once again, be split ceremonies to help accommodate parking and keep crowds under control. The T-ball and Instructional teams will have their ceremony in the morning, while Minors and Majors will take place in the afternoon. There will be delicious snacks onsite from the TLL concession stand, and there will be several food trucks to choose from, such as Stroker’s BBQ, Glamourview Creamery, and Coco’s Grill. The TLL Photo Booth will be open for all those social media opportunities, and we are hoping to once again have visits from a mascot or two! Other vendors onsite will include local fire and ambulance crews, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, Pivot Physical Therapy, and many more. We have a few other surprises in the works, so be sure to bring the entire family out for this fun-filled day!

Another extremely big draw during the opening day ceremonies are the raffle baskets. Tickets will be on sale to win a variety of awesome prizes. Baskets include gift cards and other donated items from a variety of establishments, such as Catoctin Wildlife Preserve, Thurmont Kountry Kitchen, Catoctin Breeze Winery, Baltimore Orioles, Tree Trekkers, Adventure Park, Frederick Keys, and plenty of others. We will also be having a 50-50 and a table of spiritwear and TLL discount cards for sale.

As always, we are looking for volunteers for the upcoming season. If you are interested in getting involved, please reach out to us at The biggest need is for volunteer umpires. If you are a high school or college student looking for community service hours or semi-retired with time on your hands, we will provide all the necessary training. We can’t wait for everything this season has in store for our players and families!

Blair Garrett

Making the big league is every young athlete’s dream.

For Mason Albright of Thurmont, that dream has finally become a reality.

The Catoctin alumni pitcher was selected in the 12th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Los Angeles Angels, giving him the opportunity to move one step closer to reaching a professional baseball career.

Albright, who pitched for Catoctin High School his freshman, sophomore, and junior year, spent his senior season in Bradenton, Florida, pitching at the IMG Academy among some of the nation’s top prospects.

Leaving friends and family behind for a year to improve was a tough decision, but ultimately, Albright felt it put him in the best position possible to begin a professional career in baseball.

Catoctin went on to win the state championship in Albright’s absence this past season on the back of a remarkably skilled pitching core, but Albright’s sights are set much higher.

The 18-year-old had plans to commit to Virginia Tech this coming fall, but the Angels made him an offer sweet enough to push the prospect to sign right out of high school, a feat that hadn’t been done by a Frederick County baseball player in over a decade.

With the first two draft days passing by without hearing his name called, the chances were getting slimmer and slimmer that he would accept an offer from a team and forgo his scholarship to Virginia Tech.

The Angels’ $1.25 million signing bonus offer is the largest in the bonus-pool money era of the draft for a player picked after the 10th round, which means the Angels knew they had an opportunity to pick up a talented player and ran with it.

With a limited amount of signing bonus money left, the Angels’ commitment to meet Albright’s signing value shows they believe he can make an impact down the line someday soon.

Albright held tight for a signing bonus that would persuade him to relinquish his commitment to Virginia Tech, and his confidence in his abilities ended up paying off big time on the final day of the draft.

The mission over the past year for the left-handed pitcher has been to improve his game, and he is now among elite company to eventually make the push onto the Angels’ roster. 

The Angels used all 20 picks of their 2021 draft selection on pitchers, so the message is clear that the team wants to develop a deep prospect pool of pitchers.

Albright headed west to Tempe, Arizona, to the Angels’ training facility for a team mini-camp to grow with other top prospects for the coming season.

The future is bright for the former Cougar to make a splash into the MLB, and he’s just getting started on what is hopefully a long and successful career on the mound.

Mason Albright, 18, throws for the Perfect Game National Showcase, which gives

scouting exposure to baseball’s top prospects.