Golf, Tennins and Paddle Classic

Posted by Avenues in News on 8/21/2018

Longtime Park Ridge resident Mike Artrip came to the Vine Street BBQ competition and fest last year as a spectator. He left the second competition on Aug. 18 in Hodges Park as a champion.

Artrip and his “Aporkalypse Now” teammates took congratulations on their “Best of Park Ridge,” “Best Ribs” and “Reserve Champion” awards, beaming in the balmy evening and trying to take it all in.

“It’s just thrilling and wonderful to do it with my friend Steve Eatherton and Larry Martin, and Joe Artrip,” Artrip said.

Like those “Aporkalypse Now” ribs, all the ingredients came together for the event, which featured 40 teams. Competitor entry fees, beverage sales, raffles and donations all raised money in support of raised in support of Avenues to Independence, Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the Maine Township Food Pantry. As of Monday, the amount raised was not available.

Jamie Rubin, a fest founder and event organizer, describes Vine Street BBQ as “being good neighbors, enjoying good foods, smoking good meats and doing good for good causes.”

The competition and fest also shares much in common with its namesake food.

“The Dirty Ribs,” a team comprised of Park Ridge City Council members, put in hours of work for one brilliant bite, according to team member and 5th Ward Alderman Charlie Melidosian.

“The general public has no idea of the countless hours of experimentation you go through for a judge to have that one bite of flavor,” Melidosian said.

The goal was to improve from last year’s performance.

“I won in sauce last year, but came in dead last in chicken,” Melidosian said. “I want to be 39th or better in chicken this year.”

This year, they were sixth.

Jerry Feldman, a first-time competitor with “Smokin’ Avenues” and an Avenues to Independence board member, remembered last year’s “intense” competition.

“It made me realize we had to prepare,” Feldman said. “We couldn’t just throw this together.”

For months, Rubin and event organizers Jamie Rafferty, Joe Kontuly and Brian Chaplin worked behind the scenes, bolstered by volunteer leader Jen Healy and a team of more than 150 volunteers.

“There’s no way the four of us could do this by ourselves without the volunteers,” Rubin said.

Returning volunteer Steve Godsell spoke of hardworking fun. By now, “I know all the people involved,” Godsell said.

Rubin doubled the number of teams, with at least 25 from Park Ridge. Another 17 were on a waiting list. A “Best of Park Ridge” award added “local flair.”

Jan Hunter traveled from Wisconsin to compete with her husband. She noticed that Park Ridge flair last year when her husband was a certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge.

Hunter said the competition is “like a party,” with families and friendliness.

Challenges, too, can lead to victories. The smoker Artrip used for his award-winning ribs wasn’t his first choice.

At the fest, health regulations mean that festivalgoers can’t sample competitor’s food. But they still could queue for ’cue and more at eight food trucks and stands.

Kelly Colonna of Park Ridge enjoyed a brisket.

“We love barbecue,” Colonna said. “It’s nice to find one that’s local that we can go to.”

The fest was a way to “get out of the house,” enjoying outdoor time with her husband and two young kids. With bounce houses and games at the “Kid’s Corner,” the youngest had much to enjoy.

Fragrant smoke wafted through the air.

“I love the taste; I love the smoke; I love the intrigue of trying to come up with new flavors that people will enjoy,” Artrip said.

Music was in the air, too.

Steven Killian describes his band Pulse as “Americana with a bit of funk.” They formed among Park Ridge friends who came together over a shared love of music while their kids grew closer at Park Ridge schools.

“It’s like playing for your friends and family,” Killian said.

After the music and smoke fades, Vine Street BBQ’s impact continues.

“Sixty-five years ago, Avenues to Independence was founded in Park Ridge,” said Molly Dietlin, the organization’s development director. “What better way to honor our clients, educate our neighbors and celebrate within our community.”

Park Ridge Mayor Marty Maloney joked that next year’s field could expand to 80 competitors, before giving the “Best of Park Ridge” award.

Rachel K. Hindery is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.


Tags: park ridge , vine street , bbq , competition , community

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