So Much More Than a Charity Event: A Look Back at the Main Street BBQ Competition

The first BBQ competition hosted by Main Street BBQ won’t soon be forgotten by those who attended. From the wild weather to the surprise ending, it was a memorable day. Here’s a recap of what happened.

THE STAGE IS SET

From blocks away, the smell of expertly prepared BBQ hung in the air. Smoke billowed from behind the building in downtown Lowell, alerting those passing by that the BBQ competition was about to begin. The competitors, still looking fresh after a long night of manning the grills, eagerly awaited the official kickoff of the competition.

Some unique characters made their way to Main Street to try the BBQ.
Some unique characters made their way to Main Street to try the BBQ.

THE INTERVIEW

Having had the opportunity to speak earlier with Brian Thompson of “Our Backyard Barbecue”, and Blair Diamond of “Black Ace BBQ”, it was time to take a moment to speak to the final competitor, KayLee Westerhuis of “Meat in the Heat”. KayLee busied herself loading wood and cleaning her station while spritzing the perfectly browned ribs.

KayLee told Lowell Leads the Way about her decision to enter with four meat choices consisting of chicken quarters, briskets, BBQ ribs and pork butts. Surprisingly, she had started training to BBQ only six months prior to the event. After having watched her father, Jim, BBQ for years, she decided it was time to try her own hand at it. KayLee confessed that her first time starting her own fire in the smoker happened a mere four days prior to the competition.

It takes a lot of work to make delicious BBQ.
It takes a lot of work to make delicious BBQ.

A DEEPER MEANING

When asked what she loves about BBQ, KayLee explained that she loves giving delicious food to friends and family. What’s more, it has allowed her to really connect with her dad, she said with a huge smile.

When the subject of what Pink Arrow Pride meant to her, she grinned widely and explained that it would always have a special meaning to her. “The first Pink Arrow Game was played during my freshman year at Lowell High School, and it will always be close to my heart,” KayLee said.

It was at that point, the smile faded, tears began to well in her eyes, and the conversation took a much more serious tone. She explained she had recently lost someone very dear to her from cancer. KayLee talked about how Pink Arrow Pride helps those experiencing the pain cancer brings and helps them find comfort and strength. Also, she noted how important it is that Pink Arrow Pride brings this great community together by helping those in need.

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KayLee and her dad hug after the results are announced.

KAYLEE’S MENTOR

Jim Westerhuis, KayLee’s father and mentor, watched with pride as his daughter busied herself at the grill. He explained that cooking with natural wood has been a family thing since he was a child. Watching his grandfather, Jim took note and eventually perfected his own methods which he passed on to KayLee.

As the time passed, KayLee and her father spent the competition laughing and engaging in some good-natured ribbing while she worked. Her mother spent time organizing the booth and offering encouragement. KayLee checked the meats as Jim kept a watchful eye. As the time for judging neared, a look of excitement mixed with concern crossed his face.

Hungry yet?
Hungry yet?

THE JUDGES

The meats were placed in front of the three judges, and the competitors seemed to relax and enjoy the time with friends and family. Meanwhile, looking very serious, Judge Mike Saladino, pitmaster of Saladino Smoke, and Matt Smith from the Pit Stop jotted down notes as each meat selection was presented. Blind judging, using KCBS style rules, were strictly enforced, and the judges appeared to take their jobs very seriously.

The judging was complete, and the competitors readied themselves for the results. Erin VanEpps, one of the owners of the Main Street BBQ took to the microphone to announce the final results. Each of the competitors presented well, and the decision could not have been easy.

KayLee and her many trophies.
KayLee and her many trophies.

A SURPRISE ENDING

Erin read the results, and KayLee of Meat in the Heat was stunned when she realized she had taken three out of the four categories, with the remaining category going to Black Ace BBQ. Her father, still standing at the smoker, turned away briefly. He was speechless and perhaps getting a bit misty eyed. As KayLee hurriedly returned to her booth, placing the trophies on the smoker, she hugged her father tightly. What a day this had turned out to be for a daughter and the father who she wanted to spend time connecting with.

It was a great day. The Main Street BBQ raised $3,000 in support of Pink Arrow Pride this year. The team at the restaurant worked through driving wind and rain. Tents came down, and fences were laid flat. The spirit of the event, however, was not dampened. Friends and memories were made. It was apparent that even as the close of the event approached, no one wanted it to end. The Main Street BBQ was filled to capacity well into the evening with laughter, great food and community spirit that was second to none.

Did you attend the Main Street BBQ Competition? Tell us your favorite part of the day in the comments below.

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