By: Staff Writer.
Davenport - On October 11-12, the City of Davenport, in partnership with Florida BBQ Association offered one of the most awaited events of the year... the Big Belly BBQ Battle.
On Friday and Saturday, Market Street was filled with the delicious aroma of the many BBQ pits that visited us from around the area to showcase their exquisite dishes. From delicious pulled pork to homemade buffalo mac and cheese, the BBQ competitors had all kinds of dishes to meet everyone's expectations... including mine.
During our visit, we had the pleasure of meeting three teenagers from St. Cloud, Lane Sandlin, Annie Setvin, and Devi Brown, who were working one of the BBQ shops, Smoking N' Pokin', to help their parents win the big price. Annie told us that they are not newbies to the BBQ competitions... they, in fact, have won many awards in the different events they have attended and are planning on continuing participating to add more prices to their already award-winning BBQ career.
While interviewing Annie, she made a point of telling me that I needed to try their pulled pork, which I did. As a person who loves BBQs and pulled pork, I had big expectations, but let me tell you... when I tried their pulled pork accompanied by baked beans and homemade mac and cheese, I immediately realized that there was a reason why these teens were running their BBQ shop like experts in their field... and it was because their food was, in fact, award-winning material.
During our visit to the event, we also had the pleasure of meeting the kids from the Country Ridge 4-H Club. These amazing kids were running the shaved ice shop and they were doing a great job not only with the enthusiastic advertising abilities but also with their customer service skills.
We interviewed their vice-president, Kyndall Akens and we were amazed at the way she was running the shop with her friends. She shared with us that the purpose of the fundraising was to raise funds for their youth fair and also to be able to buy their club jackets. "We do great things and we help our community with our events. I am the vice-president, but I am running for president next year," said Kyndall before leaving the interview to go and take care of a customer who stopped by the shop to get a shaved ice cone.
We also had the opportunity to interview another member of the club, Emry Dykes, who was in charge of holding the advertising poster to attract customers to the shop. Emry was a talkative little young girl who shared with us amazing information about what the club does. She also shared with us that she is not only a member of the 4-H Club but that she is also a participant of the Special Olympics. "I participate in paddle-boarding, swimming, and bowling," said Emry when we asked what sports she plays.
For those of you who didn't know what the 4-H club is all about, let me explain... the 4-H Club is a program delivered by Cooperative Extension—a community of more than 100 public universities across the nation that provides experiences where young people learn by doing. For more than 100 years, 4‑ H has welcomed young people of all beliefs and backgrounds, giving kids a voice to express who they are and how they make their lives and communities better. Through life-changing 4‑ H programs, nearly six million kids have taken on critical societal issues, such as addressing community health inequities, engaging in civil discourse and advocating for equity and inclusion for all.
As you can see, the Big Belly BBQ Competition event wasn't only about BBQ... it was also about bringing our community together. This and other events similar to this one is what we need to be able to unite us as a community, and also for all of us to get to know the great organizations, like the Country Ridge 4-H Club, that are working to make the Northeast Polk County area a better place to live.
We want to thank the City of Davenport and the Florida BBQ Association for coordinating this event. We can't wait for next year's competition.