We just recently completed our 2nd Annual Lizard Creek Jam & BBQ Battle on the first official summer weekend, June 21 and 22. I have to say that planning an outdoor event is one of the most stressful things you can possibly do. I am a person who wants to do the very best I can with every single detail. However, the prevailing factor of an outdoor event is completely out of my control – the weather. I watch the weather religiously in the 10 days prior to the event (because The Weather Channel offers a 10-day forecast), but otherwise, I pray a lot.
The Lizard Creek Jam & BBQ Battle has so many moving parts of planning. Once you have the date and the venue, you push forward tackling as many details as you can both long-term and short-term. A key part of the event is our BBQ Battle. To have a BBQ Battle, you must have BBQ competition teams. We decided after last year that we did not want to have 20 teams, so this year, we limited our teams to 16. We sent the teams who participated last year a save-the-date immediately after last year’s event. We accepted the first 16 entries. Mary Lou Kellogg, who works at the Chamber and co-chairs this event, is the one who does all communication with the BBQ competition teams and the judges.
On both Friday night and Saturday, we had spaces for vendors, so Mary Lou and I worked together to recruit vendors without having any that sold the same type of items and communicate with them about space and electrical needs leading up to the event. We had to make sure that we planned our space well enough in the field Friday night for vendors, BBQ cooking teams, and concert audience. Because of the heat and the fact that people are cooking food, we need to have EMS on standby. For people’s safety, we also have two deputies on site.
The primary team who plans this event consists of me, Mary Lou, co-chair Marcia Kerr, Myron Grueneich, and John Schaech. I suppose we are the planning committee. For this event to be a fundraiser of any sort (because it is very expensive to put on), we solicit business sponsors. Thankfully, our Chamber board assists the staff in securing sponsorship. Another key volunteer is Kate Kennedy, who for the past two years has organized our carnival games for kids. Both last year and this we offered for some of our member fire departments and non-profits to run the games, and we would give them the profits from the games. This year the Halifax County Boys & Girls Club sent volunteers to assist with the games.
The Chamber always operates a booth to sell soft drinks and water. We design and order souvenir stadium cups with our sponsors listed. This year we added selling “Buck-An-Ear” Corn and “Legless Lizard” Big Dill Pickles. The drink booth is always busy, but adding these items meant we needed even more volunteers than usual. We also added cute Lizard Creek Jam & BBQ Battle t-shirts, so that added more volunteers.
Saturday when we sold the BBQ, we needed volunteers to sell BBQ tickets, coordinate the Tasters’ Choice event, put together plates and pints, sell tickets and hand out items in the drive-thru, work inside pouring and selling drinks, lead the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the National Anthem, present the BBQ awards, coordinate vendor spots, calculate BBQ scores, set up and clean up tables, etc.
Throughout the entire event, we had to deal with trash collection (I enjoyed that pleasure on Friday night) and take photos of the event (thanks to my friend Paula Miles and Chamber member Robin Lancaster for capturing the event in images and video). Did I also mention that we had to put together goody bags for our four BBQ judges and 16 BBQ teams? We also have to coordinate spraying the entire field for pests, hooking up an additional electrical panel, schedule the bands, have extra dumpsters and porta-johns dropped off, have a tent put up for shade, set up tables and chairs, place and line barrels for trash, arrange for ice, put up signs and banners, design a newspaper insert featuring sponsors, promote the event on the radio and social media, and so on and so forth.
All of which takes a great deal of blood, sweat and tears on the part of the staff and board and absolutely could not happen without great volunteers. We appreciate being able to rent the Lake Gaston Lions Club venue and the Lions sharing Chuck Youse as a liaison because he always goes above and beyond the call of duty to make events successful.
We want to continue to offer a summer festival for the Lake Gaston community, but for all the work that is put into the event, we need your support. Feel free to become an event volunteer next year. We will take any amount of time you have to offer. Feel free to share input with us about the event if you attended. If you did not attend, please make sure you attend next year and tell friends. The feedback we had was overwhelmingly positive. By the way, if any of you missed the event and would like some of the delicious, award-winning BBQ, we have some left in the Chamber freezer. Please come by and purchase some. It freezes great and will be a wonderful summertime dinner later on.