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First ever BBQ competition cooks up funds for Yellowjacket activities

Joe Bowen/FOCUS Participants prepare their entries moments before sending them to the judge’s tables at the first annual Perham Lions Rib Cook-Off. 1 / 3
Joe Bowen/FOCUS Rick and Nancy Vyskocil get their ribs ready for judging. While some teams were there to represent a restaurant or other local business, the Vyskocils said they participated just for fun.2 / 3
Joe Bowen/FOCUS The first of nearly 20 entries at the Cook-Off is evaluated by a team of judges. 3 / 3

Organized by a committee of local business owners and barbecue enthusiasts, and run through the Perham Lions organization, the first annual Perham Lions Rib Cook-Off took place last Saturday, Aug. 10 in downtown Perham.

“I was told it was the ‘event of the summer’” said leading organizer Mark Schmidt, who was instrumental in organizing sponsorships and ran the judging process during the event.

Eighteen teams barbecued the best baby-back ribs they could manage for two separate panels of judges. An entry from a different team was turned into the judges’ tables every seven minutes, where they were evaluated on taste, tenderness, texture and appearance.

The first panel was responsible for the main competition, and their verdict determined who won the $500 prize for first place.

Ultimately, they selected Rose City BBQ’s entry for the award. Gabby’s Gameland and Ottertail Tents took second and third place, respectively.

The second panel consisted of members of the Perham High School football team and coaches. They determined the “Yellowjackets’ Choice” award, and ended up bestowing that honor, and $500 in Perham Bucks from United Community Bank, to Kicking Boar BBQ and head cook Tim Fresonke.

The football players also volunteered their help in setting up the event.

All of the proceeds from the cook-off will go toward Perham High School’s activities budget, explained Les Kundo, one of the competitors, as he hung out near his team’s enormous grilling station on Saturday.

“We’re hoping to generate $3,000 at least,” he said, adding that the organizers are hoping to present an oversized check to the school’s athletic director at half-time during the year’s first football game.

Also present was Dana Andrews, who cooked more than 60 racks of ribs from the back of an enormous trailer pulled by a semi-cab.

The vehicle is owned by Arvig, and represents the slow evolution of Andrews’– who retired from the company six years ago – growing interest in competitive barbecues.

He explained that he used to run company picnics more than 20 years ago and, as Arvig expanded, so too did the equipment used to feed all of the employees.

Eventually, they upgraded from a normal-sized grill to a larger, nine-foot long grill on a trailer.

Andrews and other employees took the grill to a competition in Kansas City, Mo. and found themselves hooked after a respectable showing. They went to 12 competitions in their first year, Andrews said, and did most of their work via cell phone since they were out of the office.

After 16 years in that fashion, they eventually upgraded to the massive trailer that took up most of 2nd Avenue on Saturday, although Andrews said he doesn’t participate in nearly as many competitions as in years prior. The furthest the trailer will travel this year, he said, will be Gettysburg, S.D.