The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

October 16, 2012

Great taste of helping others

Hot Off The Grill benefits St. Martin’s, SCCM, Esther House

By Jason O'Boyd, Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 — Chances are if you went to the Hot Off the Grill BBQ Competition at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church last Saturday, you were living high off the hog. Or maybe it was chicken or some other delicious item.

The first event of its kind held at the church could easily be deemed a rousing success, not only for the patrons’ taste buds but also for Stanly Community Christian Ministry (SCCM), Esther House and the church’s Shepherd Fund, which received proceeds from the event.

The church estimates more than 750 people turned out for the afternoon affair under sun-kissed skies with just a hint of clouds. Delectable aromas of barbecue, chicken, brisket and other prepared meats wafted throughout the air to entice you. Your ears were tickled by the sounds of musical groups as they performed on the stage. And your eyes beheld some creative booths with decorations that would make Martha Stewart just a little jealous.

All of this was almost too much to handle for patrons who just had to stop by to sample some of the tasty items. Each booth had bites of barbecue, chicken, brisket, ribs, deserts and other foods to try. And just when you thought your taste buds couldn’t handle any more, tents were set up for patrons to take home generic plates of barbecue or chicken to enjoy.

There was also a silent auction, face painting, a photo booth and blow-up toys for children to enjoy, too. So, all in all, there was something for everyone.

“When our church did barbecues in the past, it was always one of our greatest fundraisers because it brought all of the church together and was something everyone enjoyed,” said Kim Brown, one of the coordinators and a member of High on the Hog, one of the winners at the event.

“So we just tried to create a real festive atmosphere here. The competition kind of got the juices going with decorating and just making it look like something special for the people that came.”

Peggy Barringer was another coordinator of the event. She said meetings were conducted 4-5 months in advance of the big day. Her husband, David Barringer, along with church members Mike Efird and Joseph Whitley, initially came together to discuss ideas. Peggy came on-board to be in charge of the event and make sure things ran smoothly.

“It started off with just a little fire, something in our fellowship class,” she said.

“We had a chili competition back in the fall of last year. It was just a friendly competition, just kidding with one another. So we thought about having a barbecue competition to raise money for the community.

“Then it started getting larger and larger as we got more people involved. Then they decided ‘Maybe we can invite different churches and then we can all get together and let it be a real competition.’

“At first you’re thinking, ‘This is overwhelming.’ And at times you felt like it was because it was much bigger than we had done before.”

But the months of preparation all paid off with the number of participants and the many people who came out. Competitors came as early as 7 a.m. Friday to set up shop and begin fixing the food. They stayed all night cooking, swapping stories and maybe just exchanging a little bit of trash talk about who would win.

Cookers had to follow a set of rules set up by the church, which provided all the meat so competitors would start off on the same level. Judges were brought in to sample items and prizes were awarded for best chicken, ribs and Boston Butt as well an open competition for other foods. Awards for best pit decoration were also handed out.

Ten different churches were involved in the competition and there’s a good chance they’ll be even more wanting to get in on the action next year.

“We’re just hoping to build on it,” Brown said.

“This is our first year of doing the competition, and we’ve already had someone come who wants to help participate next year from his church. They came to see what was going on, so hopefully it’ll be an annual event.”

“I’m sure everybody is already thinking ‘What can we do better’ and that sort of thing,” Barringer said.

“When you look at the individuals that went way out as far as decorating, I’ve already heard comments ‘Just wait ’til next year. We’ll be there.’ So it’s been a really great competition.”