Two years ago, four Park Ridge friends decided to take their amateur summer barbecuing skills to a new level.
Under the team name Silence of the Hams, Brian Chaplin, Joe Kontuly, Jamie Rafferty and Jamie Rubin, signed up for the Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ, where judges inspected and taste-tested the pork and chicken that came off their grill.
The experience was so much fun, Kontuly said, that an idea began to form among the friends.
"We thought, Park Ridge needs more activities and wouldn’t a barbecue competition or festival make a ton of sense and be a lot of fun?" Kontuly said.
The friends discussed the idea for a year before moving forward with plans to organize the Vine Street BBQ Competition, Park Ridge’s first public grilling contest.
The competition is scheduled to take place on Aug. 12 along Summit Avenue, between Prospect and Touhy avenues, in Uptown Park Ridge. Public hours are noon to 9 p.m., though competing grillers will arrive as early as 7 a.m. to get started, Rubin said.
The contest is open to up to 20 grilling teams, who will be judged by individuals who are certified by the Kansas City BBQ Society, Rubin explained.
"Due to it being one day, we are only allowing teams to cook ribs and chicken — and they can enter a sauce if they like," he said. "But they have to do ribs and chicken to participate."
Submissions will be turned in to the judges between 2 and 3 p.m. that afternoon, with winners announced around 5 to 6 p.m., Rubin said.
As of June 9, 19 teams — some with quirky names like Lynyrd Ribnyrd and It’s Time for the Porkulator — had already registered to compete.
Some team members are local, Rubin said, though other communities are also represented.
"It’s getting attraction from outside the area, which is nice, but we definitely want to have a local presence for the teams as well," he said.
"Our competition is really an amateur-level competition," explained Kontuly. "So folks who might be barbecuing as a backyard hobby should have total confidence in their ability to compete in our event."
One of those "amateurs" is Park Ridge Mayor Marty Maloney who said he will be grilling with some of the city’s other elected officials. He acknowledged that 5th Ward Ald. Charles Melidosian will be "doing the lion’s share of the work" for the team.
"I grill for my family, but I’ve never taken part in a competition like this," Maloney said. "It will be new ground for me for sure. But I’m looking forward to it."
Though judges will be taste-testing the meat that is prepared, attendees to the competition will not, Kontuly said.
"We will have separate food vendors for people attending the event," he said. "The competitors will cook ribs and chicken for judging and, obviously, themselves, but that won’t be shared with the general public."
In addition to food and drink available for purchase, the Vine Street BBQ Competition will feature activities for children and live music, Rubin said.
The organizers — who named the contest "Vine Street" because two of them live along Vine Avenue in Park Ridge — have requested that the city waive any fees associated with conducting the fest, Rubin said. Over the last few years, organizers of events like Taste of Park Ridge have been billed for public works and public safety expenses involved in the event operation.
According to Rubin, a portion of the proceeds from food and beverage sales, in addition to a raffle, will be donated to two organizations: The Maine Township Food Pantry and Bear Necessities, a nonprofit pediatric cancer foundation funding cancer research and assisting children and families who are fighting the disease.
"We wanted to do something hyper-local, like Maine Township Food Pantry and, while Bear Necessities is local [with headquarters in Chicago], they have a national footprint as well," Rubin said.
In addition to raising money and giving grillers a place to mix up a new sauce, the Vine Street BBQ Competition is another community event for the residents of Park Ridge, Kontuly said.
"We’re really excited we have the opportunity to put on this event this summer," he said. "We think what we’re doing is for a great cause, and it’s another fun thing the people of Park Ridge can hopefully expect for years to come."
For information on competing or volunteering in the competition, visit www.vinestbbq.org.