Wildwood BBQ Bash The event's 14th year unfolds at St. louis community college - wildwood

Story by Travis Bodell

Media by Travis Bodell and Naomi Saegusa

The 14th annual Wildwood BBQ Bash took place on Fri., Sept. 28-30 at St. Louis Community College - Wildwood. The event is held and organized each year by St. Louis Home Fires, a grilling company owned by Frank Schmer.

In recent years, the event has been held at Wildwood Town Center, but Schmer and organizers were forced to find an alternative venue for the 2017 rendition of the festival due to construction in the area.

“Switching locations is always difficult,” Schmer said. “We had been at the Town Center for a few years, but change is always good.”

Support from the the festivals attendees, presenters and volunteers alike is what keep the Bash flourishing after 14 years.

The Bash began out of Schmer’s love for BBQ food and grilling, he wished to combine the two for the community to participate.

“The support from those involved in the BBQ business is what got this whole thing started in the first place,” Schmer said.

The BBQ Bash sets itself apart from other food and beverage festivals in a variety of ways. The booths featured at the event were by no means limited to those selling ribs or brisket.

Some booths present dispensed fresh lemonade or bags of kettle corn, while others offered free samples from local businesses wishing to build their clientele. The variety in food available makes for more options for the picky eaters that may be in attendance each year.

1) The Fresh Squeezed Lemonade stand used a hydraulic press to create their product. The booth features strawberry, blueberry and mango lemonade flavors. 2) Fresh kettle corn is bagged and made ready for purchase. 3) With BBQ and kettle corn close at their side, two young attendees help themselves to Kona Ice snow cones. The company had trucks on site during all three days of the Bash.

“My favorite booth [this year] was actually one that is selling fresh fruit smoothies, not BBQ food,” Erin Morton, senior, said. “There’s something here for everyone.”

The competitions and cook-offs held each year at the BBQ Bash are another aspect of the event that differentiates it from the usual BBQ convention. While competitions for ribs, pulled pork and sausages still exist, Schmer felt it important to include non-BBQ categories to be entered as to include more talented cooks that wouldn’t normally be able to participate in event like the Bash.

Some of these ‘unorthodox’ categories include a chili cook off as well as a kid’s competition. To him, including an array of different vendors and competitors is one of the most important parts of holding the Bash each year.

“Being able to see someone with little-to-no experience in food service enter their dish into competition and be able to say ‘Wow, I just won’ is something really special,” Schmer said.

Vendors at the BBQ Bash are in no way one in the same. Some vendors are from BBQ restaurants that are open year-round, but others come out each year for different reason.

One booth was that of the St. Louis chapter of the Jaycees, an organization that trains individuals in leadership and helps them become employed. The Jaycees’ booth sold fresh lemonade and pulled pork sandwiches. The profit from the weekend’s business went to the organization.

“The atmosphere here this year [was] great,” said Jaycees member Luke Ferrario. “Everyone was just having a good time.”

Like every year, the sound of meat sizzling on a grill and BBQ-ers mingling throughout the different booths was accompanied by music played by an array of local bands and musicians. For Schmer, keeping the entertainment local is just another step to giving the BBQ Bash a sense of community and togetherness.

New this year were the American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation services provided during the performances. Different students and faculty of STLCC’s deaf communications program took turns translating the singers’ lyrics into ASL for deaf audience members.

An interpreter translates a performance into American Sign Language. Interpretation was done by members of the deaf communications program at STLCC - Wildwood.

In addition, STLCC provided paid parking for attendees. Shuttles to and from the event were available as well.

Schmer was very satisfied with how the Bash has operated while being hosted by STLCC for the last two years.

“The Community College is very accommodating to us, and I can see this relationship working out for both them and the Bash in the future,” Schmer said.


Naomi Saegusa

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