Sweet onions, swift sales

Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Jerry Skidmore shows the few remaining bags of Vidalia onions he had Wednesday before they were sold as part of a fund raiser for the Mirza Shriners. Three hundred bags of the sweet onions were sold in two days.

A springtime tradition returned to Iola Monday.
As predicted, the arrival of the sweet Vidalia onions drew a crowd to Boren’s Roofing on North State Street.
The Vidalias, known to many as the world’s sweetest onions, were sold — all 300 bags — by Wednesday afternoon, reported Jerry Skidmore, a member of the Mirza Shriners.
The Shriners sponsor the annual onion sale to raise funds for a number of year-round activities.
The demand is high each year for Vidalias, Skidmore explained, because they’re only grown in Vidalia, Ga., a few months each year.
“They just don’t last very long,” Skidmore said.
But more importantly, the onions are a hot item for locals because they’re quite tasty, Skidmore said. They’re unusually sweet because of the low sulfur content in the Georgian soil and because of the mild year-round weather.
“What I like to do is take some salt and pepper, add a little butter, then wrap it with the onion in some foil and put it on the grill,” he said. “A lot of people slice ’em up and put ’em on hamburgers. They’re great for onion rings, too.”
A portion of the proceeds goes to the local Masonic lodge, some goes to the Mirza Shrine Center in Pittsburg and some goes to Shriners hospitals nationwide, said Skidmore.
The local fund raiser began about 20 years ago and for the past 10 or so years, sales have been handled at Boren’s Roofing. Owner Ron Boren allows use of a forklift to unload the onions, a much quicker process than when volunteers would unload truckloads of onions by hand.
Roughly 40,000 pounds of onions are delivered to southeast Kansas each year, Skidmore said.
There are 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children across the United States and Canada, aiding children up to age 18 with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate. All the services are provided at no charge to families, regardless of financial need.
Proceeds to the local Masonic lodge help diffuse transportation costs to get local children to Shriners hospitals. The nearest hospitals to Kansas are in St. Louis, Chicago and Houston.