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Tuscarawas County BBQ burnoff pulls together community, raises money for charity
Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau took the idea of hosting a barbecue burnoff and turned it into an event that pulled together the community, raised money for a local hospice and promoted Farm Bureau, Nationwide and OSU Extension.
“People get a warm and fuzzy feeling when they are helping the community and want to join Farm Bureau,” said Organization Director Michele Specht.
Having the right people in place was critical for the success of the “Camp Meigs BBQ Bootcamp and Burnoff.” The May event had two components: a barbecue competition and barbecue educational classes. While Extension had the education expertise, county Farm Bureau members didn’t know much about running or judging a barbecue competition.
“At the third meeting, a volunteer asked how we were going to do this because burnoffs attract serious teams and have lots of rules. At that point it was either cancel because we didn’t know what we were doing or get somebody knowledgeable,” Specht said. The county Farm Bureau found an Amish business owner and New Philadelphia businessman who competes in barbecue burnoffs and agreed to chair the competition. Sponsors for the $15,000 event included Nationwide (provided fourth place trophies), local agriculture commodity groups and businesses.
Eleven teams competed for the $500 grand prize, other cash awards and trophies and came from all over Ohio. The two-day event held at the Tuscarawas County fairgrounds attracted about 2,000 people and raised $6,500 for Community Hospice of Tuscarawas. It required at least 40 volunteers and extensive promotion, including a website, yard signs, banners and newspaper and radio ads and stories.
The burnoff was a family friendly event with no alcohol or smoking allowed and inflatables for kids set up during the kickoff on a Friday night. The main event started Saturday morning with teams competing in the categories of chicken, pork ribs, pork, beef brisket and people’s choice. While the competition was going on, barbecue seminars were held and local vendors were open to sell their food and wares or pass out information.
The event was free except for those who wanted to sample the meat during the competition. A $5 wristband allowed visitors to taste the meat and vote for the people’s choice winner in the pork butt category. Most of the money raised for the hospice came from the wristband sales. Visitors received bags with the Farm Bureau logo and Our Ohio magazine and some signed up to be members.
The county Farm Bureau plans to make this an annual event and is considering ways to improve it, including making itlonger (it ended at 4 p.m. on Saturday) and adding a cornhole tournament.
Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau’s board budgeted $1,200 for the burnoff with an additional $1,000 grant from OFBF’s Center for Food and Animal Issues and an $800 Our Ohio communications grant.
“Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau believes in investing in the community and this was a great way to do it,” Specht said. “What a fun atmosphere of people cooking and eating.”