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The Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ Moves to Front Yard and Smokes All Expectations!

Bar-B-Crew

Bar-B-Crew

The fortunes of the Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ Cook-Off in year three continued to rise fast and sweet like the smoke from the grills of its 40 contestants. It was a particularly satisfying aroma for Tom “Pig Daddy” Koprowski and the Backyard Bar-B-Crew as they rose to the challenge of bringing the event from the town’s “backyard” in their residential neighborhood near Taylor and Willis Streets to Glen Ellyn’s Downtown District or “front yard” this past September 10th.

The move was in part out of necessity as the event outgrew its first venue due to increasing popularity among contestants and attendees. It also allowed the event to fulfill one of its original goals which was to create a fun reason for people from both Glen Ellyn and outside communities to come to town and experience the town’s sense of community and love of American traditions like barbecue, jazz, Fourth of July, and volunteerism.

Moving the event downtown allowed it to expand to host more grillers, more bands and entertainment like a bags tourney, more sponsors and exhibitors, and, more importantly, more guests to stroll the site and take in the smells, sounds, and tastes it offered.

“We are elated with how it all turned out,” concluded Koprowski. “The first year happened out of a few friends and neighbors in town who shared a common interest in seeing Glen Ellyn prosper and settling competing claims and friendly trash talk over who made the best BBQ. We’re seeing the vision realized and the impact grow.”

“I love BBQ, not just for the joy of cooking and eating good food, but for the informal, relaxing, social opportunities it creates,” explained Koprowski. “Add in some people, music and beverages and you have the recipe for a great day.” That first year, in 2009, the challenge was to take the grills and all the trimmings out of the backyards and put them in the front yards for a day without losing that backyard BBQ vibe and sense of community and fellowship. To help develop those qualities they also adopted a charitable cause – tackling the problem of homelessness through Bridge Communities, a local Glen Ellyn charity dedicated to helping the homeless.

The first year, 18 teams of grillers and scores of spectators turned up, and, enjoyed the experience so much, plans were underway for year two before the last coals were cool. The second year saw the Bar-B-Crew grow the event to 30 teams and add live bands along with more sponsors and food vendors while keeping its unique community feel. This set the stage for the move from the “backyard” of Glen Ellyn, its single family residential home roots, to the “front yard” of town. It was important to move the event downtown in order to grow and allow it to become even better, raise more money for Bridge Communities, and, achieve its goal of bringing people to town. But, the move involved some risks and extra work.

The biggest challenge was to do all that and not lose the unique community vibe that made it special in the first place. “We pulled it off , and I was relieved!” exclaimed Koprowski. ”The amount of money we raised for Bridge blew me away! But the real marks of success this year were the comments we got from each segment of those attending – grillers, spectators, Glen Ellynites, out-of-towners, repeat attendees, first-timers – they affirmed we achieved our goal of making it fun and bringing the backyard and community vibe here with us when we moved downtown.”

An estimated 1,000+ spectators enjoyed the event. They listened to three blues bands – The Bill Ande Band, The Amy Kelly Band, and the Bluz Brothers. They danced, hung out with family, made new friends, played bags, ate food and drank beer and soft drinks. They watched and talked with the competitors, their senses savoring the experience while picking up tips and sharing recipes. They bought raffle tickets, shook hands with the giant pig, and enjoyed being outdoors. They helped Bridge Communities take in proceeds of over $20,000 from the event.

People of all ages and interests were involved, in true community fashion. Part of the proceeds consisted of $102 raised by a group of kids in grade school who baked cupcakes and brownies at home the night before and sold them at the BBQ. The amount will provide services and housing for a four people for one night at Bridge’s calculation of $25 in cost for housing and services per night per person. Bridge provides more than roof and a bed, its programs try to address the root causes and issues of family homelessness as it serves 100 families per year, with the majority headed by single mothers with two children. Perhaps just as important as raising money for Bridge is the awareness the BBQ raises about the challenges of ending homelessness in Glen Ellyn. “I feel good we raised that much money, it wasn’t that hard,” said Ethan Cepuran, a sixth grader and one of the bakers, “and it made me appreciate how fortunate I am not have to worry about having a safe place to sleep or enough to eat each day, and, how we need to do more for those who don’t.”

The 3rd Annual Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ in 2011 saw 40 BBQ teams enter, with the number of out of town teams increasing from 17 to 28 while Glen Ellyn teams held steady at 12. Teams came from as far as DeKalb, Huntley and Normal as well as Cook, DuPage, Kane and Will counties. The level of culinary competitiveness was high and challenged the team of judges to select the winners. Food categories were Best Pork Ribs and Best Dish. A Showmanship Award was added this year to encourage grillers to bring the backyard BBQ spirit to the new downtown venue.

Judges included certified Kansas City BBQ Society members, local celebrities, and culinary enthusiasts such as: Mark Pfefferman, Village President; David Kramer, chef instructor at College of Du Page; Anne Kryzsko, trained culinary chef from Le Deux Gras; Victoria Martin, private executive chef; Steve Haddon, District Manager for Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria; and Jill Fource, owner of Marcel’s Culinary Experience.

The winners were:

Best Ribs:
1st Hot Diggity Hog – Wheaton
2nd Smokin’ Tasty – Huntley
3rd Hone-e-s Barbeque – Downers Grove
4th Team Patriot – Glen Ellyn
5th Bawling Hawg BBQ – McCook
6th Porky Joes – Des Plaines
7th Boss Hog Smokin' – Glen Ellyn
8th 2 K's Que – Lisle
9th Rack Masters BBQ – Aurora
10th Running With The Boars – Hanover Park

Best Dish:
1st Running With The Boars – Hanover Park
2nd Team Highlife – Lombard
3rd Southside BBQ – Chicago
4th Bawling Hawg BBQ – McCook
5th Head's Red BBQ – Roselle
6th Running With Scissors – Glen Ellyn
7th Hot Diggity Hog – Wheaton
8th Boss Hog Smokin’ – Glen Ellyn
9th Mile High BBQ – Normal
10th JJ's BBQ – Plainfield

Showmanship: Smokin’ Tasty – Huntley

The bags tourney was a new and well-received addition to the festivities. Tourney director Bob Solak reported 17 teams entered and the following results:

1st In It To Win It – Glen Ellyn
2nd JTs – Location Unknown
3rd Cornholios – Glen Ellyn

As in previous year’s, planning started for the next year before the coals were fully cool. “We are already looking, based on feedback we’re getting from attendees, at expanding the food options available for spectators to purchase, adding some additional kids activities and games, and putting together some BBQ tutorials and expositions and the like. We’re always expanding and evolving, and, looking for more ways to make the event more fun, more widely known, promote Glen Ellyn’s unique charms, promote BBQ, pick up more community support, and, generate more awareness and financial support for Bridge Communities,” stated Tom Koprowski.

Event sponsors included: Whiteford’s “Love Your BBQ!”, Glen Ellyn Bank & Trust, FloorOpedics, Euclid Beverage, The Abbey Resort & Avani Spa, The Hot Dog Lady, WDCB, Bubba Berk’s, 26Hot, Country Financial – Robert Kelly, aether dbs, The Kitchen Studio, House of Graphics, Riviera Jewelers, Ltd, DuPage Chiropractic Center, Tap House Grill, Hohner, Towntees, Health Track Sports Wellness, Hickory River Smokehouse, Stubb’s, Hack’s, Marcel’s, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, Weber Grill Restaurant, Alfie’s Inn, Adelle’s Fine American Fare, Dairy Queen, Honey, Austin BBQ, Soukup’s, Ali Kat and Muldoon’s Eatery.

The Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ Cook-Off Committee was chaired by Tom “Pig Daddy” Koprowski and included Co- Chair Greg Bane, Tom Nelson, Lori Urick, Amy Thompson, Chip Miller, Bob Solak, Kirk and Emmarie Burger, and Matthew Whiteford.

Bridge Communities, Inc. is a dynamic, grassroots, nonprofit organization committed to transforming the lives of homeless families in DuPage County through partnering with talented, resourceful individuals and groups in the community. Its program of transitional housing, mentoring and supportive services empowers the families to increase life skills and earning power to promote self-sufficiency, sustain permanent housing, and to break the cycle of poverty within the family unit. What began by co-founders Mark Milligan and Bob Wahlgren when they decided, in 1988, to begin to help homeless families, has now become a powerful current of change in the lives of hundreds of extremely low to low income at-risk families.

To make a donation to support homeless families served by Bridge Communities, or to find out how to support Bridge in other ways, please call Mark Milligan at (630) 545-0610, ext.10 or visit www.bridgecommunities.org.

For questions or more information on the event, or to sign up to participate in next year’s BBQ, please contact Tom “Pig Daddy” Koprowski at gebackyardbbq@gmail.com.

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