Author Brandon Alley pays visit to China Grove Elementary
By Susan Shinn
CHINA GROVE ó Students at China Grove Elementary School on Friday received a visit from the Great Brandini!
OK, well, actually, it was Brandon Alley, a graduate of N.C. State University and a China Grove Elementary alumnus.
While at State, Brandon wrote a book about Gary’s Barbecue for a class he took. The school recently had the book published and on Friday hosted an author visit for Brandon, who’s now 24.
As a kid, Brandon spent many an evening at Gary’s, where his mom was a waitress.
Brandon’s parents, Angie Miller and Kevin Alley, had front-row seats as their son read his book to an attentive audience of some 700 students.
Brandon always tried to emulate his uncle, Charlie Mabe, who’d draw cartoon characters on green guest checks.
“I copied what he did,” Brandon said. “The story was built around that into the book.”
It took Brandon two months to write and illustrate the 16-page soft-cover book.
“I spent a long time thinking about how to illustrate it,” he said. “I ended up using watercolor.”
The story, Brandon says, “is pretty much true.”
His mom worked at Gary’s for 12 years and he has fond memories of the restaurant.
His uncle Charlie even fixed him a “Brandini Weenie,” an item that’s not on the menu. But if you’d like a cut-up hot dog with melted cheese, they’d probably fix it for you.
Brandon graduated in 2008 and is now a student services representative for the college of textiles at N.C. State.
But on Friday, he was an author.
“He always enjoyed writing. He had a good imagination,” Angie said. “He was very thorough in telling a story.
Brandon attended State on a full scholarship and his dad called him a perfectionist.
“He was an overall good kid,” Kevin said.
Teacher Sandy Overcash spearheaded the event.
“Brandon was an excellent student who always did his best,” she told the children.
When Sandy asked the children if they’d ever been to Gary’s, most of the hands shot up. When she asked them if they’d ever had Cheerwine, nearly all the hands went up again.
To celebrate the author visit, Gary brought 700 hot dogs for the students and staff, and Cheerwine donated soft drinks.
Mayor Don Bringle brought greetings from the town of China Grove.
“Wow!” he told Brandon after the book was read. “That was really descriptive. What a tribute to Gary.”
Gary praised Brandon’s efforts.
“Little did I know when you were laying around in the booth you’d be an author,” he said. “This is very special. I appreciate it.”
“You are now a published author,” Sandy told Brandon. The school purchased copies for the library and every grade level.
Retired teachers Sandra Rogers, Sue Dodd and Becky Withers attended the day’s festivities.
Sandra taught Brandon and his parents.
“Everything Brandon did was right,” she said. “The child was a wonderful student. He was easy to get along with.”
After the presentation, it was out to the car circle, where staff members made hot dogs to order and served up Cheerwine. Nobody spilled too much.
In case you’re wondering, Brandon still eats at Gary’s ó although these days, he’s graduated to a barbecue salad or chicken tender plate.
With plenty of Cheerwine to wash it down.
Copies of “Gary’s Barbecue” are $20. To order, call Sandy Overcash at 704-857-6312.
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