PAXTON — The Swine 'n Dine BBQ is back — this time as part of the Paxton Prairie Festival.
The second annual barbecue cook-off will take place Sept. 21 in the 100 block of North Market. Entry fee for the event is $30, and packets can be picked up at the Paxton IGA, organizer Ben Grice said.
Grice used to compete on the Kansas City Barbecue Society Illinois circuit. After a trial run last October in fellow organizer Dave Mabrey's garage, Grice wanted to open it to more competitors and run the event in a more visible spot.
Grice said experience isn't necessary: A first-timer won last year's event. Grice's goal is to turn the annual event into a cook-off sanctioned by the society.
Grice hopes for 50 teams, and about half that many have signed up already. He's doing the registration locally because he says he can better control the process than offering it online. Several contestants have driven from the Chicago area to pick up packets. There is no deadline for entering the three-class competition, but Grice would like entry packets and fees turned in by Sept. 14.
Grice said the Vineyard Church has offered its auditorium as space for the judging, away from festival attendees on the street. Right now he is seeking more judges. Last year, Mayor Bill Ingold served as a judge. Grice hopes judging can be done in time for an awards presentation that evening.
He figured September would be a good time to hold an outdoor competition. He said October could be too cool and August too hot.
"We control what we can control," he said. "It's kind of a crapshoot. After all, it's central Illinois in the fall."
A local entrepreneurial group, PEARLS, is sponsoring the overall festival, which features a flea market and refreshment stands. The Chamber of Commerce will pay for a bounce house and maze for children's activities, and the city will pay for porta-potties and three bands scheduled to play through the afternoon and evening. The two bars will have fenced-in outdoor beer drinking areas. All events will end at 10 p.m.
Grice said the city has stepped up in a big way, and the downtown businesses "have wrapped their heads around the idea," planning to stay open extended hours that day.
Chris Engelbrecht of Engelbrecht Grills and Cookers is corporate sponsor for the event.
"If this event is to showcase Paxton, then we should be included," Engelbrecht said.
Grice is the company's executive chef. Engelbrecht will provide some competition funding, help with promotion and let a community organization use his firetruck cooker to sell meals for a fundraiser.
Engelbrecht Grills has transformed a 1964 Ford firetruck into a BBQ pit. The mobile cooking machine has been featured on television and radio. According to the company website, great care went into keeping the lines and general appearance of the original truck intact. For instance, the back of the truck, once home to the hose bed and water tank, is now a work platform for the cooking chamber. The extra storage compartments in the rear were built the same as if they were built in 1964.
Engelbrecht, 35, said Paxton has lacked a down-home festival.
"It's been a while since we had one," he said.
For more information on the Paxton Swine 'n Dine BBQ Cook-off, check out the event page on Facebook. PEARLS is looking for more flea market vendors for the Prairie Festival; 10-by-10-foot booth spaces cost $25.
Contact Debi Chapman-Hermann at 379-0292 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.