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Westmont's Red, White and BBQ festival returns this weekend

Red White and BBQ fest 2012 participant Scottie Johnson prepares his meat for barbecuing during last years event.
Erica Benson file photo -
Red White and BBQ fest 2012 participant Scottie Johnson prepares his meat for barbecuing during last years event. Erica Benson file photo -

WESTMONT – Professional chefs, amateur grillers and thousands of meat enthusiasts will fill Westmont’s Ty Warner Park for the seventh annual Red, White and BBQ festival, which kicks off Friday.

The cookoff – which extends through Sunday – is run by the Westmont Lions Club and sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, the largest organization of its kind in the country. The event has grown in popularity every year and now is touted as the largest BBQ competition in Illinois and the third-largest in the Midwest.

Red, White and BBQ will be the scene of an upcoming Destination America “BBQ Pitmasters” episode. The show’s hosts will film a semifinal “pitmaster” competition all weekend, bringing several challengers from throughout the United States. It airs on The Discovery Channel.

Red, White and BBQ event coordinator Chris Svitak said hosting “Pitmasters” is a “dream come true” and a testament to how far the Westmont event has come in seven years.

“We are honored to have ‘BBQ Pitmasters’ come to our event,” Svitak said. “Ultimately, this is about raising money for the Lions Club, great food and putting on a memorable event for Westmont residents.”

The brainchild of Uncle Bub’s BBQ & Catering owner Mark Link, the first Red, White and BBQ cookoff was in 2007, growing in popularity and attendance every year, Svitak said.

Svitak expects about 15,000 people to attend this weekend’s festivities, which will be highlighted by 72 professionals and 54 amateurs facing off to be crowned barbecue king. Admission is free.

The three-day cookoff will award more than $10,000 in prize money to amateur and professional grill masters, as chefs square off in four categories — ribs, chicken, beef brisket and pulled pork.

While meat remains the staple attraction, the festival provides something for everyone.

Admittance is free, and residents interested in escaping the haze of hundreds of grills can tour the children’s carnival, browse through jewelry at the arts and crafts show or concoct a new dish at one of the many cooking demonstrations.

The festival also will host several musical acts, including Jordan Marcus, 2112 Chicago, Rock Academy, Soul City Juke Band, Kashmir, Wall of Denial and Slim Pickins Country.

Before Sunday's Red, White and BBQ competition at Ty Warner Park, St. Jude Children's Hospital and the Westmont Lions Club will host the Race to the Flag 5k Run/Walk.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday, about 500 participants will run, jog and walk around the park boundaries, honoring a local family and raising money for the children's hospital.Event staff has set a goal of raising $15,000, according to race director Michael Ramsey.

Prizes will be awarded to winners in each age group and overall male and female winners.

WHAT: Red, White and BBQ festival
WHEN: 4 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, noon to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Ty Warner Park, at the corner of Plaza and Blackhawk drives

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