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15th annual Wildwood BBQ Bash: What to know before you go

From beef brisket to loaded nachos, a variety of smoked meats and carnival-themed foods will be available at the 15th Annual Wildwood BBQ Bash.

The grills are lit. The tents are up. The sauces, rubs and homemade marinades are out. For one weekend in September, West County becomes the destination for barbecue fans across the region and country, and it’s been setting a standard of success for over a decade.

The annual Wildwood BBQ Bash, presented by St. Louis Home Fires, returns Sept. 27-29 for another year of great food and family fun at St. Louis Community College-Wildwood’s campus, 2645 Generations Drive.

The three-day event is sponsored by West Newsmagazine, Mari de Villa, Budweiser, Three French Hens, the city of Wildwood, Napoleon and Mid America Chevy Dealers.

While the 2019 event is the Bash’s eleventh year in Wildwood and its third year at the STLCC-Wildwood campus, the 2019 festival also marks another landmark.

“This year actually marks our 15th annual bash,” Frank Schmer, owner of St. Louis Home Fires and the organizer of the Wildwood BBQ Bash, said. 

According to Schmer, the event has grown and changed substantially since its inaugural event in 2004 when seven teams competed for five judges in front of the St. Louis Home Fires storefront, 15053 Manchester Road. In its second year, the BBQ Bash’s participation jumped up to 56 competitors and sparked the birth of the St. Louis BBQ Society, which continues to spearhead multiple opportunities for competitive barbecuing and grilling in the area. 

In 2018, Cole’s Sweat Heat served up ribs that appear to be delicious. [SLBS photo]

When the Bash moved into Ballwin’s Vlasis Park for its third year, it grew from a cooking competition into a full-blown festival with live music and vendors. The SLBS Scholarship Award also was established to annually recognize the achievements of individuals related to SLBS members. Its goal is to provide financial assistance to undergraduate or graduate students.

That devotion to family and fun continues. Today, over 50 barbecue teams from across the state flock to the STLCC-Wildwood campus for the weekend-long festival, which includes over 100 judges, live music and special appearances from notable chefs and pitmasters in the barbecue community.

“The Bash is still community oriented,” Schmer said. “There’s a competitive element, but at the end of the day, people want to come and have a good time.”

According to Schmer, the secret ingredients in the Bash’s success have been its consistent devotion to providing a high-quality, competitive experience in addition to a family-friendly festival atmosphere.

“A lot of people know that, once the last weekend of September rolls around, the Bash is coming up,” Schmer said. “If you’re constantly changing things, it makes it harder to establish an identity. I’d say we’ve been pretty consistent over the years.”

ENTERTAINMENT FOR ALL

While barbecued meats are highly coveted at the Bash, food isn’t the only item on the festival’s enjoyable menu. Free entertainment, in the form of contests, demonstrations and music concerts, is available all weekend long. All events will be held on the Mari de Villa Main Stage.

On Friday, Sept. 27, students from School of Rock kick off the day’s musical lineup. At 7 p.m., St. Louis-based band Whiskey Dixon performs new country hits.

Whiskey Dixon [Facebook photo]

On Saturday, Sept. 28 at 12:45 p.m., Vandelay Industries takes the stage to dish out covers of pop and rock favorites. The band performs a wide variety of music from The Beatles, Rolling Stones and today’s pop hits. At 1:30 p.m., Devine Dance performs during the band’s intermission. 

At 4 p.m., Kingdom Brothers, a favorite from last year, entertains festivalgoers with original tracks that combine blues, R&B and Gospel influences. The festival’s annual Chicken Wing Eating Contest commences at 6 p.m. during the band’s intermission. 

St. Louis-based party band Dr. Zhivegas performs at the Mari de Villa Main Stage on Saturday evening.

At 7:30 p.m., popular party band Dr. Zhivegas cues up a list of popular party-rock tracks and cover songs that will have patrons dancing until the fireworks display begins around 9 p.m.

On Sunday, Sept. 29, festivities get underway at 10 a.m. At noon, the band Blues City Swing performs on the Mari de Villa Main Stage. The six-person band is known for its jazz and swing melodies, and its New Orleans-style R&B performances. 

Bash vendors and cooking tents close down at 3 p.m., but the fun isn’t over. Attendees can stick around for the awards ceremony at 3:30 p.m., during which the winners are announced in each of the Bash’s eight cooking categories: ribs, brisket, pork, chicken, pork steak, dessert, chili and Chef’s Choice along with the Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion. 

Shuttle buses will continue to operate until 6:30 p.m. that evening.

2019 SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Friday, Sept. 27
5-11 p.m. Shuttle Buses Run
5 p.m. Bash Grounds Open
6 p.m. School of Rock 
7 p.m. Whiskey Dixon 
10 p.m. Bash Grounds Close


Saturday, Sept. 28
9:30-12:30 a.m. Shuttle Buses Run
10 a.m. Bash Grounds Open
11 a.m. Opening Ceremonies Begin
12:45 p.m. Vandelay Industries
1:30 p.m. Devine Dance 
4 p.m. Kingdom Brothers 
6 p.m. Chicken Wing Eating Contest 
7 p.m. Kids Que Awards 
7:30 p.m. Dr. Zhivegas 
9 p.m. Fireworks 
11 p.m. Bash Grounds Close


Sunday, Sept. 29
9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Shuttle Buses Run
10 a.m. Bash Grounds Open
Noon Blues City Swing 
3 p.m. BBQ Bash Ends
3:30 p.m. Awards Ceremony

*All times are approximate and are subject to change.
Free admission • No pets, please

A HOST OF AMENITIES

STLCC’s Professor of Deaf Communication Studies, Eric Driskill, and student volunteers will provide sign language interpretation of Bash activities taking place on the Mari de Villa Main Stage throughout the entire weekend.

“They’ll be out there interpreting all the announcements and all the concerts,” Gina Tarte, marketing and communications director at STLCC-Wildwood, said.

STLCC-Wildwood’s mobile unit will be located near the Main Stage to provide potential students with information about upcoming classes and offerings.

“We’re going to have a significant presence this year,” Dr. Carol Lupardus, campus president and chief academic officer, said.

At the Main Stage, the KCFV-FM radio station from STLCC’s Florissant Valley campus will broadcast music and Bash updates on 89.5 FM The Wave.

“It’s exciting because now we have students from some of the other campuses getting involved from Florissant Valley and those in deaf communications,” Lupardus said. “It’s becoming sort of an all-district event, which is very exciting.”

Also in 2019, the proceeds from event parking fees on the school’s lot will again go toward student scholarships at St. Louis Community College. In the previous two years, over $19,000 has been raised.

“Each year, we’ve become a little more involved,” Tarte said. “Working with Frank and the city has been awesome.”

Lupardus agreed. “I have never participated or known of any activity in all my years here that has attracted so many people to an individual campus,” she said. “It’s a great partnership.”

The BBQ Bash at dusk.

The annual fireworks show is again sponsored by Three French Hens, a home décor store operated in Wildwood by owner and resident Jeanie Hood.

For those craving a more hands-on experience, award-winning pitmaster Tim Scheer of Shake ‘n Bake BBQ will make his inaugural visit to the Bash as the official 2019 VIP guest. Scheer will be on-site all weekend to provide live cooking demos and lessons about choosing tools, charcoal, meat cuts, sauces and more.

Shake ‘n Bake BBQ is made up of Scheer, his wife, Terri, and the couple’s three daughters. Together, team has won 36 Grand Champion titles and 43 Reserve Grand titles. Scheer also has won in the brisket and pork categories at the American Royal World Series of Barbecue at the Kansas Speedway. In 2017, Scheer and his family were ranked as the No. 2 team in the world by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.

In addition to serving as a judge in the festival’s Iron Chef competition, Shake ‘n Bake BBQ will compete in all eight categories of the Bash’s official competition. Scheer will be available all weekend to meet and chat with festivalgoers and competition participants.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” he said. 

WHAT [AND WHAT NOT] TO BRING

Bash attendees should plan on bringing cash to the event grounds for purchases from vendors. ATMs are available on-site. Cash also may be required for other purchases, such as parking fees.

Pets, except for service animals, are not allowed on the event grounds due to the presence of food and beverages.

Lawn chairs, blankets and cushions are allowed, but attendees should keep in mind size and portability if considering shuttle transportation. Coolers, glass containers, tobacco, weapons and firearms are prohibited at the event.

In case of emergency, Metro West Fire Protection District and the Wildwood Police Department have command posts on-site, along with the County Police Emergency Management command post.

PARKING AND SHUTTLES

Parking in neighborhoods adjacent to STLCC is restricted to residents only. However, parking is available at:

• 2665 Hwy. 109, accessible from New College Avenue and Generations Drive, south of the YMCA and east of the community college campus. 

• Wildwood Family YMCA, 2641 Hwy. 109, accessible from New College Avenue. Cost: $10 per car for Friday, Saturday until 5 p.m. and Sunday, with no re-entry; $15 from 5-11 p.m. on Saturday, with no re-entry.  

Proceeds benefit STLCC scholarships and YMCA programs depending on the lot chosen. 

Free shuttle buses and parking are available at:

• Living Word Church, 17315 Manchester Road, and New Community Church, 16801 Manchester Road, on Friday, Sept. 27 from 5-11 p.m.; and Saturday, Sept. 28 from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m. 

• Lafayette High, 17050 Clayton Road, on Sunday, Sept. 29 from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Postcards featuring a map of the event grounds are available on the shuttle buses and at Wildwood Business Association’s Booth #3.

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