TERRE HAUTE —
Rich smelling smoke rose from two dozen barbecue grills in the shade of a massive tree at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds on Friday morning as amateur chefs prepared their ingredients for this year’s 4-H barbecue contest.
“It’s awesome to be here,” said Betty Elwell, who was preparing rib eye steaks coated with her special marinade.
A few steps away, William Warner, a junior at Terre Haute South Vigo, was heating coals to grill his “Jamaican Jerk Chicken” along with zucchini with mozzarella cheese. Warner, a past winner, said he changes his recipe each year, regardless of past success.
“I like grilling things,” Warner said. “It’s a lot better than cooking in the oven.”
Meanwhile, scattered all around the contest venue were contestants from the Helping Hands 4-H Club led by Theresa Watson. About a dozen kids of all ages from the club were competing with the youngest mostly grilling hot dogs. The older kids got more sophisticated.
“It’s a little stressful,” said Gabby Comelleri, a junior at Terre Haute North and a past winner in the showmanship category. She was whipping up rice, orange chicken and broccoli on her grill. The tasty orange sauce was a special recipe created by Wyatt Sons, a senior at South Vigo.
Comelleri’s stress would inch up a notch later when she accidentally grabbed something hot, burning her hand. She held a cold bottle of water to ease the pain as Sons took over the grilling.
Another veteran competitor, Caleb Randolph, 13, was nearby grilling thick-cut pork chops wrapped in bacon. Randolph, a student at Honey Creek Middle School, said he took blue ribbons in past competitions using a charcoal grill. This year, however, he was using a gas grill.
“Propane is easier,” Randolph said sitting in front of his grill.
Another veteran of past competitions was Morghan Bacon, 13 who was doing a little grilling “outside the box.” She was grilling buttermilk and honey chicken kabobs, squash, zucchini, pineapple and, surprisingly, a doughnut.
“I like making things that are usually not cooked on a grill,” said Bacon, who attends Sarah Scott Middle School. In past competitions she has made pizza and meatballs on the grill, she said.
“I’m just waiting for the doughnut,” said Morghan’s grandfather, John Bacon, part of Morghan’s cheering section.
One of the most eye-catching setups belonged to the Huxford family, who, dressed as pirates, prepared rum ribs with pineapple and a special, homemade salsa.
A few feet away, Gracee Peters, 11, was grilling chicken and mushrooms while her little brother, D.J., 7, worked on dozens of hot dogs.
Several judges, including the Vigo County Fair queen and her court, tasted all 20-plus dishes before the public was invited to share in the feast.
When the smoke had cleared and the contest results were announced, the Huxford family pirates took two prizes, including the People’s Choice award. Other winners included the slightly injured Comelleri, Caleb Randolph, William Warner and Theresa Watson.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org