Barbecue event benefits foundation

An amateur barbecue competition will stimulate people’s senses of taste and smell, and also serve a good purpose.

The third annual Pork in the Park event starts at 9 a.m. Saturday at Stellar Park Plaza in North Vernon City Park and benefits the Jennings County Hope Foundation — a nonprofit organization that supports community needs.

While the pork, beef and chicken that cooks will barbecue will be the main attraction, event organizer Kevin Dougherty said the event will offer other attractions as well.

“This thing has grown beyond just the cook-off. We’re going to have live music during the entire day, there will be bouncy houses and things for the kids, independent food and craft vendors, a beer garden and plenty of space to see,” Dougherty said.

“This is our first real festival in our new Stellar Park, and we are hoping for a big crowd. We’ve got the new $150,000 sound stage, and I hear they have some really good bands lined up,” said North Vernon Mayor Mike Ochs.

Live entertainment is planned, with 12 bands scheduled from noon to 11 p.m., and the beer garden is open the same hours.

“Everything is free for the public except for what they choose to buy from the vendors,” Dougherty said.

Following a growing nationwide trend in organized barbecue competitions, Pork in the Park started in 2014 as one of a series of five regional amateur cook-offs. The other four in the series are: Smoke On the Square in Hope, on June 11 this year; the Jackson County Fair, July 24; Harmony Que, Aug. 27 in Seymour; and the Vernon Homecoming Celebration, Sept. 4.

Winners of the five independent cook-offs will compete for the title of grand champion at a competition to be announced at a later date.

“There are cook-offs for both amateur and professional barbecuers. Pork in the Park is just for amateur cooks. We call it the backyard division. The backyard division is for people who just like the fun of doing their barbecue in their own place, in their own way and who think they have the best barbecue around,” Dougherty said. “The amateur division is a lot of fun and it is much cheaper to get into than the professional competitions.”

Pork in the Park features four barbecue categories: chicken, pork ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket. Cooks are permitted to enter any or all of the categories.

“If you like to barbecue, just grab your grill and come on down. This is a lot of fun, and we have $1,300 in cash prizes and awards for the winners,” Dougherty said.

“There will be a board of judges to decide the winners in each of the categories, but there also will be a people’s choice award, and everyone can participate in deciding the winner of that. The cooks who want to participate just put out a pork shoulder and people can taste each one and decide which they like best,” Dougherty added.

A few openings for competitors remain, but all cooks must be registered by Wednesday. The entry fee is $50. For more information, call Dougherty at 812-592-6260.

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What: Pork in the Park, an amateur barbecue competition that benefits the Jennings County Hope Foundation

When: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday

Where: Stellar Park Plaza in North Vernon City Park

Other activities: Bounce houses, craft vendors, live music. Musical acts scheduled: Sand Creek Soul, Dusty Road Band, Scottie Geer, Matt Williams, Robert Holbrook, Rusty Bladen, Keith Swinney Band, Dave Bishop, Jynx, Jill McIntosh & The Open Throttle Band, Clint Zimmerman, Lick Skillet Band.

For more information: Pork in the Park’s Facebook page.

To enter the barbecue competition: Call organizer Kevin Dougherty at 812-592-6260. Entry fee is $50.