Mike Reed celebrates after winning best ribs honors last year during the inaugural Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ. The event will have its second run on Saturday as part of an enhanced block party.
Courtesy Tom Koprowski
For an event just one year removed from its inaugural showing, a neighborhood barbecue in Glen Ellyn has created some pretty heavy buzz.
After a strong debut that began as a result of friendly banter on a community website and attracted 18 competitors, Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ rib cook-off upped the ante this year.
Organizer Tom Koprowski spread the word throughout the region, getting businesses in Wheaton and Lombard involved, while also letting state- and national-level barbecue organizations know about his event. He also launched a blog, at gebbq.blogspot.com, to share news throughout the year.
The result of these efforts? Koprowski had to cut off entries at 30 and said he has a waiting list in case some people drop out.
"It's really taking off, no doubt," Koprowski said. "The barbecue community is a tight-knit group and they are always talking."
The second Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ Cook-Off Competition begins at 9 a.m. Saturday with judging from 2 to 4 p.m. on the 700 block of Willis Street in Glen Ellyn. The event, which Koprowski calls an enhanced block party, will feature live music this year. Also, judges certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society will attend.
The event is a fundraiser for Bridge Communities, Inc., a local grassroots charity dedicated to transitioning homeless families."
As people line up to sample the delicious fare, one competitor will try to do something for a fellow Glen Ellyn resident serving in the military overseas. Jim Burket said a news report about Jeff Poisson, stationed in Afghanistan, gave him the idea of collecting money and putting together a care package for the soldier. During the event, he will have a jar out collecting donations.
Burket said he has two nephews who served in the military and the story reminded him of the appreciation they showed for care packages from home.
"They looked forward to anything that came from us and was familiar and reminded them of home," he said. "You're essentially sitting in the desert with nothing to do."
Burket said he hopes to include some food from Portillo's in the care package, which was a restaurant Poisson mentioned specifically.
"I haven't met this guy and thought he was kind of a cool guy and I admire what he does," he said. "He had a specific desire, he was a local guy and he was doing the job I cannot do."
Ultimately, Koprowski said he hopes the event can become a full-fledged festival in downtown Glen Ellyn to promote foot traffic, in the tradition of other events, such as the Taste of Glen Ellyn and Jazz Fest.
"It's really important that other people from outside of the community know what we have to offer," Koprowski said, noting that many of the sponsors and more than half of the competitors are form outside of Glen Ellyn.
While Koprowski hopes to move things downtown eventually, it's the neighborhood aspect of the event that he says has made it popular.
"There are different ways we can take this thing," he said. "But it's an amateur contest and that's what sells us. I don't want us to lose that."
If you go
What: Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ, a competitive rib cook off
When: Competitors start cooking 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 18; judging from 2 to 4 p.m.
Where: 700 block of Willis Street, east of Glenbard West High School