(Left to right) Dr. John Paige III of Bayer; Carol Shea, community resource specialist for the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida; and Lisa Paige handed out educational literature during the event.
Dr. John Paige III, senior scientist and field development representative, Bayer CropScience, and his wife Lisa hosted their 28th annual “Beast Feast” this past May. The Beast Feast encourages guests to donate to a great cause while enjoying a variety of wild game, all hunted by Paige and his friends. As Paige says of the feast, you can come here to eat anything “slow or stupid enough to get caught.” That works out to roughly 500 pounds of food. This year The Beast Feast championed a cause especially close to the Paige family — The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.
Several years ago Paige’s son was diagnosed with epilepsy. After a series of misdiagnoses for nearly a year, John and Lisa attended a seminar at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., where they were introduced to The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida (EFF). Paige credits the EFF with finding not only a diagnosis but a treatment for his son, who is now thriving.
The first Beast Feast began in Lubbock, Texas, as a small gathering including John, Lisa and four close friends of the family. The Beast Feast now opens its doors to nearly 200 guests, including friends and family, PMPS, distributor representatives and Florida Pest Management Association personnel. Though some of the industry professionals in attendance work for the competition, Paige notes that regardless of employer all guests are friends rallying to support a cause. This year The Beast Feast raised more than $1,500 for the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, and donations continue to roll in. Attendance of The Beast Feast is free, and all donations are given anonymously. All proceeds go directly to the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.
So what beasts exactly comprised the feast? This year’s menu included: two deer, one and a half hogs, 300 snipe (a waterfowl for those unfamiliar with the game of Florida), more than 100 pheasants, two gators (30 pounds each), 20 pounds of frog legs, 10 pounds of various fish, and a couple dozen hotdogs and hamburgers for the faint of heart. To supplement the “beasts” guests are encouraged to bring sides and drinks. Paige says the most popular item by far was the gator. What hasn’t fared so well? Squirrels. In past years Paige has served up squirrel, which he willingly eats, but guests seemed tentative to try. Paige takes pains to make sure everything he kills will be eaten and enjoyed for a good cause. In his own words, “ Nobody’s [ever been] overly happy with squirrel. I wouldn’t kill it if I wasn’t willing to eat it.”
This year Paige added a new fundraising effort to The Feast. Remember those 300 ducks? For the first time in The Beast Feast’s 28-year history Paige stepped into the world of fashion, drying out some of the duck feet and creating earrings to sell at the event for those who truly wanted to take a walk on the wild side (see photo bottom left). Paige sold the earrings in pairs for the avant-garde fashionistas in attendance or as singles for those who simply wanted a memento of the night.
When asked how he has the time and wherewithal to plan such a massive event, Paige credits his employer, Bayer CropScience, to a large degree. The company, known for its innovations aimed at redressing world hunger, encourages employees to do regular charity work, going so far as to allow every employee two community service days off per year. As not only the party planner, but also master chef, Paige spends his two days prepping and cooking the food for The Beast Feast. Attendees of The Beast Feast can confirm that Paige’s community service days are well spent. The alligator is rolled in flour, corn meal, and spices and deep-fried. If you’ve ever heard alligator tastes like chicken, Paige cautions otherwise; it tastes like shrimp. Although The Beast Feast has outgrown its original backyard barbecue roots, Paige still does the bulk of the cooking at home. As summer heats up, the master griller has some advice for the at home backyard barbecuer wary of bugs: use fly bait. “I use quite a bit of Maxforce fly bait when I’m cooking. The flies love the game as much, if not more, than we do!” So what about keeping the mosquitos away? Paige has a homeopathic recipe for mosquito repellant: “Stay in the smoke and you won’t get bitten.”
If you’d like to donate to The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida please send all contributions care of Carol Shea, community resource specialist, 3222 Commerce Place, Suite B, West Palm Beach, FL 33405. Or, if you’re feeling brave and would rather attend The Beast Feast in person, fear not, Paige extends a warm invitation to all, urging “everyone to come on down next year!” With the ultimate recipe for success — good food, good friends, and a great host — who wouldn’t be tempted by that offer? — Elizabeth Sobel
Elizabeth Sobel is a freelance writer based in New York City.