SOUTHWICK – Southwick’s Recreation Center hosted yesterday’s fifth annual Grill ‘n Daze barbeque cook-off, and the event was the centerpiece of an ideal summer day.
Admission was free for the fundraising event led by Southwick’s Rotary Club, which aimed to benefit local youth and community programs. The Grill ‘n Daze competition has expanded over the years from a basic cook-off to now incorporating four categories – chili, chicken, pork and beef.
Sunday’s fundraiser saw more than just a cook-off, however, as a vintage baseball game and live music by “Sweet Daddy Cool Breeze” were included in the event. Guests were treated to a well-rounded day of entertainment. Over 200 spectators were estimated to be in attendance. Most cook-off teams believed at least 100 people came by to try one or more of their respective food items.
The teams involved in the competition were not necessarily in it to win it, as participants saw an opportunity to both give back to the community while having some fun doing it.
Andy Cleveland of “The Second Hand Smokers” – one of many humorous team names – said that he and his teammates “compete often, win little.” Cleveland is much more interested in cooking food that people will enjoy, which included an option for three of the four categories. “The Second Hand Smokers” cooked over 200 pounds of food, and “were lucky to have five pounds left.”
Team member Mike Maziarz added “This is a relaxed, family oriented event.” He also cited guests being “thoroughly interested” in trying specific food options.
Spectators knew their food, which was perfect for the competing teams, as they were looking for people who would understand and respect the effort that was required in making the tremendous dishes.
“Butts ‘N Bones Que (BBQ)” – another clever name – had similar success in avoiding leftovers by the end of the cook-off. The team completely sold out of their products, which included 30 pounds of chili, 14 pounds of beef brisket and 45 pounds of pulled pork. “BBQ” won for best chili at last year’s event, and were greeted with a second straight victory in the category. Tom Tompkins said “BBQ used to be on the Chili Circuit for years, with events taking place all over the North East.” While their chili was an obvious hit, “BBQ” received an equal amount of compliments for its delicious pulled pork.
One of the day’s biggest winner’s was “Smokey O’s,” who placed in three categories – chili, chicken and pork – and won for best pork dish. Team member Alee Oleksak said winning was “crazy.”
“It was amazing to be recognized for all our hard work and preparation,” she said.
While Alee was excited to win, she too was simply proud to be part of the fund-raising event, as it was the team’s fourth year competing in Grill ‘N Daze. Alee’s father and team member Bob Oleksak sees the day as “A perfect event to spend time with my daughter and her friends. With the obsession over technology in the world today, it was great to be outside and cooking great food.”
“Smokey O’s” were quick to make a donation with their winnings.
Teams and spectators alike pointed to the cloud coverage and cooler weather as a huge benefit in making the day much more pleasant. With grills and hot food everywhere in sight, it was a relief for competitors to have a nice breeze and little sunshine to deal with. Many were of the belief that last year’s event took place on “the hottest day of the year,” and thought the number of guests was much lower because of it. That was not an issue this year, as everyone was comfortably enjoying the food and entertainment provided by all contributors.
Great food, baseball and music. What more could anyone ask for in a summer day?
Kevin Romani can be reached at [email protected].