GLEN ELLYN – The Backyard BBQ Cook-Off that started in Glen Ellyn residents’ backyards four years ago has returned, and it’s bigger than ever this year.
“We’re getting a lot of attention, not just from Glen Ellyn, but all around,” said Glen Ellyn resident Tom “Pig Daddy” Koprowski, one of the event’s founders.
The cook-off, which benefits nonprofit Bridge Communities in downtown Glen Ellyn, was named an “official Illinois State Competition” by Gov. Pat Quinn in May, meaning its winners can use their titles at the competition to qualify for others.
This year, the Bridge Communities parking lot will be packed with more than 60 teams participating in the cook-off, a signficant growth from the roughly 15 teams that originally gathered in October 2009.
With an increase in competitors and a lot of entertainment and food, Koprowski hopes to reach new fundraising heights this year to support Bridge Communities’ services for homeless families in DuPage County.
“They’re a respected charity in Glen Ellyn, they’re local to Glen Ellyn, they’re a grassroots organization like the barbecue is, and they do a lot of really great work,” Koprowski said.
The event has raised more than $55,000 for the nonprofit during its first four years, and for its fifth anniversary, Koprowski wants to top $30,000 with a goal of at least $35,000.
“By raising the goal of $35,000, that really provides us with enough to provide three families with housing and [associated services] for a year,” said Amy Van Polen, who is the resource development director for Bridge Communities.
The Backyard BBQ Cook-Off is a major fundraiser for Bridge Communities, second only to the organization’s annual Sleep Out Saturday, Van Polen said.
“One of the reasons it’s so important to us is because we see continued opportunities and continued growth in the event,” she said.
As part of the cook-off, teams may compete in as many as four categories: Best Ribs, Best Dish, Best Homemade Sauce and People’s Choice Award for the crowd’s favorite barbecue sauce.
While participating community members can taste competitors’ sauces for the People’s Choice Award, the food available to attendees will come from various vendors, including Brand on the Run, Smokin’ Will’s Barbecue, Husky Hog BBQ and other local, non-barbecue alternatives.
Fifteen teams competing in this year’s Backyard BBQ Cook-Off are from Glen Ellyn. The event typically sees competitors from towns throughout Illinois and even from other Midwestern states, Koprowski said.
The barbecue’s early years were in Koprowski’s neighborhood along Willis Street near the Taylor Street Underpass, but the event moved from residents’ backyards to downtown Glen Ellyn’s front yard in 2011, he said.
The cook-off also features a bags tournament, children’s activities and a raffle that will include a team-autographed hockey stick from the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks, winners of the Stanley Cup.
Although the event attracts attendees and competitors from all over, its local spirit shines through with entertainment from musicians with Glen Ellyn roots. This year’s performers include Cadillac Dave, a Glenbard South High School graduate, and Amy Kelly, a graduate of Glenbard West.
“We really try to maintain it being as local as possible,” Koprowski said.