The Meadows Casino will be smoking Sunday – in the safest sense – as three local fire departments battle for barbecue bragging rights.
“The barbecue cook-off is a great friendly competition which allows each department to show off their cooking skills while generating some much-needed financial support,” Sean Sullivan, Meadows general manager, said of the volunteer fire department fundraiser.
The fifth annual “Cruise In” at The Meadows will include the barbecue cook-off and car show. Admission to the benefit, as well as registration for the car show, is free. Cars and motorcycles can register at 9:30 a.m. Festivities run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Volunteer fire departments from Avella, California and North Strabane Township have confirmed their attendance. All three participated last year and raised nearly $1,500 each.
According to Sullivan, The Meadows expects the benefit to draw several thousand visitors, who can enjoy the firefighters’ food, about 500 classic cars on display as well as live performances by The Four Townsmen and Johnny Angel and The Halos.
Members of The Meadows food and beverage department select the cook-off’s grand champion, while the guests name a People’s Choice winner.
The reigning grand champion is California’s department and People’s Choice champion is North Strabane’s department.
After three years of participating, California Volunteer Fire Department has its cooking routine down pat. Greg Ruth, secretary of the California department, estimates about 25 firefighters will attend the benefit.
“(Preparation) starts days in advance with a check on the weather,” Ruth said. “Based on (the weather), we place our orders for product. Two to three days before the event, we start (to) prep. Everything is ready to go the evening before the event.”
The planning is not put to waste.
According to Mark Grimm, chief of the North Strabane department, the money raised at last year’s event was allocated toward a thermal imaging camera and equipment for the department.
“It gives us a chance to raise some money for the volunteers and get our department out and interacting with the community,” he said.
The fire departments will also conduct brief fire prevention demonstrations.
Though Avella Volunteer Fire Department missed last year’s title, Jim Geresti, assistant chief of the Avella department, is looking to land a victory this weekend.
“We go out there because we are invited out and we try to win the competition,” Geresti said. He added that as volunteer firefighters, they like to help the community, “but we also like to cook.”
Local volunteer fire departments interested in participating in the cook-off can email Dana Hammond of The Meadows Casino at firstname.lastname@example.org.