Throughout a morning of sleet and rain, some 20 barbecue teams stood over smoking barbecue grills to compete in an event that promised them only bragging rights.
The Jan. 27 event was the sixth annual pork cook-off fund-raiser, hosted by the Dan Donnelly Backpack program.
Chris Higgins, Channel 2 weatherman, was scheduled to be one of the judges. He had another engagement, but pitched the event to TV news crews who decided to cover the event for the Sunday evening news.
When television crews arrived, the photographer clocked the temperature at 32 degrees.
Carol Johnson, Keith Bruns, Rick Schultz and Walter Arnette conducted the blind taste comparison, sampling one numbered entry after another, and grading the taste on a scale of 1 to 10.
As word spread that the judges were almost finished sampling, the group of chefs who had been milling around outside packed up their gear and made their way into the Eagles large hall.
This year, for the first time, one team earned a perfect score on all four entries from all four judges. Mark Alonzo and his Coors Light team took first place. Team members were Hannah Daniels, Amber Phillips and Renee Kaase.
Other winners were Chris Detoli, second place, Dave Grippo, third place, and Jeff Filley, fourth place.
These types of events are all part of the popularity of the Donnelly Backpack Foundation and its work of providing school supplies to area children. The idea started as simple backpacks filled with pencils and paper for children who lived near an area apartment complex and grew to a customized school supply program for 500 to 600 area students.
Volunteers take names and grades of applicants and the Meramec Valley School district provides the list of supplies those students will need as they enter school.
Although some of the backpacks are now donated, the organization buys enough of the necessary trademark backpacks to make sure each student has his or her own filled with the entire list of supplies.
The backpackers hold six fund-raisers a year, including the polar bear cook-off, to fund their school supplies giveaway in August and their children’s Christmas party on the East Osage Plaza each December. The program was 10 years old in 2011.
“We now have a budget of $7,000,” said Dan Donnelly.
Backpack program organizers include Donnelly, Larry Mueller, Sheri Jones, Heather and Jeff Filley, Jill and Mike Pigg, and Jim Pritchard.
The next event is a hot dog and hamburger booth at the Pacific Station Plaza following the downtown Pacific merchants St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The two-minute and 18-second TV news feature aired on the 5 p.m. news segment on Channel 2.