NEXT UP – RIBS!
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
That’s how much time it took for 450 racks of ribs, 24 brisket, six pork butts and a couple hundred hot dogs to disappear at last year’s Freeman Volunteer Fire Department Firehouse Rib Cook-Off held at the Swimming Pool Park.
“That’s a ton of food gone in a short period of time,” said Chad Soulek, founder and chief organizer of the event that will return this Saturday, Aug. 14 for the eighth time in as many years. “That was crazy.”
Indeed, the fact that all the cooks were out of food before 7 p.m. last year suggests two things: 1. That by August of 2020 people who had been isolated because of the coronavirus pandemic were more than ready to get out and do something and, 2. The Firehouse Rib Cook-Off just continues to grow.
“I can honestly say this year has taken a lot more of my time up; it’s just gotten bigger and bigger,” said Soulek. “It seems like it gets harder to organize every year, but it’s all good.”
Soulek and his brotherhood of firefighters — and the wives who make up the FVFD Auxiliary — are excited to welcome as many as 25 regional fire departments to Freeman this weekend for the big to-do, which is both an exhibition and a competition. Most of those taking part, Soulek said, will be preparing both ribs and brisket and will offer up their very best for the judging.
And this is no small competition.
“They’re all a bunch of buddies, but when it gets right down to it, it’s serious,” Soulek said. “People know that if they win this, they must have done really good.”
One of the elements of this year’s event that Soulek is looking forward to is an internal competition among the cooks themselves. Every year, he said, different departments like to prepare an hors d’oeuvres for sharing — stuffed mushrooms or breakfast burritos, jalapeno poppers or even a smoked macaroni and cheese.
“The stuff these guys come up with is amazing,” he said. “That’s going to be really cool.”
Of course, guests attending the event only benefit from the smoked ribs and brisket competition because they get to enjoy the offerings themselves.
Serving starts at 5 p.m., and those enjoying the opportunity will once again purchase tickets at the gate to be used for whatever food and drink they wish.
In response to last year’s food sales, the FVFD is increasing the quantity of ribs from 450 to 600 racks and upping the briskets to at least 30. Soulek said they are also planning on more pork putts and hot dogs than they counted on serving in 2020.
And, as was the case last year, curbside pickup will also be available on Wipf Street just north of the area used for swimming pool street parking. Soulek said there’s no need to preorder; the public can simply pull up to the serving area along the street starting at 5 p.m., pay and go.
“That was the bomb last year,” he said. “People didn’t want to come out because of COVID so we’re doing it again. Hopefully it will be fantastic, too.”
There are other activities planned:
5K/10K: The day actually begins in the morning with a 5K/10K run/walk hosted by Vermeer Freeman. Anybody can enter the event by bringing a non-perishable food item to be donated to the Bethany Food Pantry. Registration is 7:30 a.m. just outside the swimming pool bathhouse, with the race beginning at 8 p.m. Those interested or with questions may contact Margie Waltner at 605-925-5239 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org; please add “5K/10K” in the subject line.
Tournaments: A volleyball tournament and bean bag tournament will both be part of the day, with volleyball starting at 11 a.m. and bean bags at 1 p.m. The volleyball tournament is co-ed and limited to eight teams. Registration should be in by 7 p.m. on Thursday; call Soulek at 605-481-1741 for availability. The bean bag tournament will be capped at 32 teams, all of whom should be registered by noon on Saturday. There is a 100% payout with a start time of 1 p.m. sharp.
Raffle tickets: Nine prizes are available through a raffle that has been ongoing the past few weeks and will continue on Saturday. Tickets may be purchased individually or by the five-count, with prizes sponsored by the FVFD, C&B Operations, S&S Ag Supply, Kleinsasser Heating and Cooling, Ace Hardware and Fensel’s Electric. Details are printed on the advertisement on page 1B.
For the kids: There will also be a water fight for children age 16 and under starting at 2 p.m., as well as free swimming at the pool. There will not be a corn on the cob-eating competition as has previously been the case. Soulek said it’s fun but difficult to plan for; “You just can’t always count on the corn,” he said.
Car show: One of the areas Soulek would like to see an increase in participation is the car show, which starts at 12 p.m. along Railway on the northern edge of the park. Every year he says he hears people say they would like to take part and hopes more will this year; “come on out,” he said.
For the good of the FVFD
All of this is being done, of course, as a fundraiser for the local volunteer fire department, which goes a long way in helping cover the ongoing expenses of an active department. Proceeds this year will help pay off a rural pumper truck, industrial washing machine recently purchased by the department and radio upgrades.
The Firehouse Rib Cook-Off typically generates between $12,000 and $15,000.
“Heck, that goes a long way,” Soulek said. “We’re just volunteers and every little penny helps.”
The support the community shows the department through patronizing this annual event means a great deal to Soulek and the others.
“Obviously the community has shown a lot of respect and support for the fire department,” he said. “People are just really on board with helping us out. That’s really what it amounts to.”