East Tosa resident Bobby Pantuso is both a city alderman and a not-so-secret barbecue aficionado.
For two years, Pantuso has been a member of the East Tosa BBQ Appreciation Society, where he meets monthly with other members at The Landing at Hoyt Park to barbecue, share recipes and enjoy side dishes and desserts. As the group has grown, members have looked for ways to spread the love of barbecue, so they cooked up an event to include more people.
That's how Q and Brew, a barbecue competition, was born.
'Chili'n on the Avenue was the template,' Pantuso said. He called up fellow society members and said 'Let's just do it.' So, members met every couple of weeks to plan the event.
The barbecue competition was held at Center Street Park on July 3 and featured music by local modern folk and indie rock band The Belle Weather, beer from Big Head Brewing Company and, of course, barbecue.
'Thirteen barbecue teams showed up,' Pantuso said, adding there was a wide variety of skill levels involved. 'Everything from neighborhood guys to a couple of teams that have competed in barbecue competitions before.'
Each team paid an entry fee, which covered the cost of meat (chickens, pork and racks of spare ribs). Teams were invited to arrive at the park as early as 5 a.m. so as to allow for enough time for the meat to cook and smoke.
When asked whether teams actually showed up at the early call time, Pantuso said some did.
'I was surprised they weren't all there at 5 a.m.,' he said.
The event incorporated judges and people's choice categories to rate the different barbecue recipes. Winners were given trophies or ribbons to take home.
Paying it forward
Despite the busy July Fourth weekend, ticket sales were high.
About 180 adult tickets and 50 tickets for children were sold for the event. Tall Guy and a Grill catered sides of baked beans, coleslaw, sweet tea and lemonade.
Ticket fees went toward funding permits to hold the event, promotion costs and a website, among other things. But what was left over — $1,550 — was donated to The Friends of Center Street Park, a community organization with a mission to improve the four-acre Milwaukee County Park, which is located in Milwaukee near the Wauwatosa border.
Pantuso said event planners hoped to break even at best and were pleasantly surprised to hand over the check donation.
Pantuso said there are already sponsors ready to get involved for next year. Event planners hope to incorporate home brewers into the equation next year, too.