Epiphany Parish is smokin'
Layne Wells gave two barbecue sauce-covered thumbs up to the first-ever Kings of the Grill barbecue championship Aug. 18 at Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in south St. Louis.
The -year-old was attending the event with her father, Sean, and was too busy managing the meat to voice a reply. But her father, Sean Wells, said the meat was just right -- tasty and just like he likes it, tender but still on the bone. The Wells are from another southside parish, Our Lady of Sorrows, and were attending the event with friends.
The barbecue championship was a fundraiser for the parish and included other events that were staffed by and raised funds for various parish organizations. Included were a craft fair, meat shoot, ga-ga (hit-hit) dodge ball -- an Israeli game in an octagon or hexagon pit where players hit or slap the ball into another player's leg -- and more.
Tents with a wide variety of smokers lined the grounds of the parish -- 15 teams were entered in the "competitor's" class and 10 in the "backyard" class. The event was sanctioned and judged by the St. Louis BBQ Society, with the grand-prize winner in the competitor's class receiving an automatic entry into the invitation-only American Royal championship.
A line formed at the tents where competitors had food-sale permits and people sat at tables, chairs or benches enjoying barbecue and other food and drinks. Children played on the playground, a dad and son played catch with a rubber ball. Parishioners chatted and laughed.
One of the "backyard" teams, Amber Stanfill and Alex Grojean of Double A Barbecue, was competing in its first event after helping her parents, Margaret and Dennis Stanfill of Sacred Heart Parish in Valley Park, in a number of competitions. The team had matching shirts and tablecloth, and they lined up chicken drumsticks to look like lollipops. Margaret Stanfill said the barbecue competitions are all about getting together with family and friends and having a good time.
Kevin Haberberger of Slabs a Smokin, a Mary Mother of the Church parishioner, has been competing around St. Louis and Memphis for about three years. He said the first-time event at Epiphany "exceeded all my expectations. It was well organized, and everything we needed was accessible."
His team took home two trophies in the competitor's class, first place for pulled pork and second place overall. They also sold out of their barbecue.
The setting was special, he said, because he and his wife, Patti, were married at Epiphany. Her family, the Mignecos, have been Epiphany parishioners for generations.
Father Tom Pastorius, Epiphany pastor, got the event going with the help of Gale Wessling of Sacred Heart Parish in Valley Park. Sacred Heart's popular Holy Smoker's tournament, this year set for the weekend of Oct. 26-27, served as a model. Wessling cited the community aspect of the events. The St. Louis BBQ Society has turned a good barbecue community up a notch, he said, helping people improve their skills.
Judges for the BBQ Society take a course to learn the ropes. They judge on appearance, taste and tenderness. Keith Emms of the Society said St. Louis barbecue "is on the map, no doubt about it." The St. Louis style, he added is known for its sauce.
Father Pastorius, who enjoys grilling at home, assembled a team using his smoker: The Heavenly Grillers, complete with Bible verses on their poster. Dave and Karin Hiatt, talking while slicing meat, simultaneously said they "absolutely love it."
Drew Beaugard of Most Sacred Heart Parish in Eureka, another "backyard" griller, said knowing that his barbecue is competition worthy is satisfying. Being around the other competitors has benefits, too, he said. "It becomes a social fraternity of sorts."
Parishioners at Epiphany will be back setting up for another community event soon. The traditional fall homecoming is set for Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14-15.
Winners in the two classes at the Kings of the Grill Barbecue Championship at Epiphany Parish were:
• Competitor's Class — Grand prize: Smoking Hicks Barbecue; second place: Slabs a Smokin.
• Backyard Class — Grand Prize: Fightin Like Brothers and Cookin LIke Mothers; second place: DBGB.
For more information on barbecue competitions, see stlouisbbqsociety.com.
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