Rotary's Cook-Off committeeman looks to better event

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lewisburg Mayor Barbara Woods on Friday heard suggestions on how to start development of what was Murray Farm's horse pasture east of Rock Creek in the city park of the same name.

Before she was elected mayor, city councilmen bought the property from Roger Ritch, the businessman who established Ritch Building Supply on Rogers Road. It was purchased "for the future," then-Mayor Bob Phillips said.

Former City Manager Eddie Fuller and the city's Public Works Department "put in the water and power" lines where the Lewisburg Rotary Club's Barbecue Cook-Off has been, Rotarian Gary Yarbrough reminded Woods. "Cookers look for places that have that.

"If you could have that," he continued in an apparent gesture to the horse pasture, "you could expand the event. You wouldn't necessarily do it for the cook-off, but you could for other things."

Those other things might be compared to the Wilson County Fair, Yarbrough suggested.

That idea, still in the formative stage, was received by a mayor willing to consider it, but Woods deferred to city councilmen, explaining she only votes when there's a tie.

Their conversation revealed that the barbecue cook-off could have more room for the chefs' wagons by having them spread across the area that has been covered by tents where goats are judged and stalls made available for the contestants as they prepare for the shows.

Yarbrough and Woods spoke while seated at a picnic table under the Farmers Market Pavilion.

"Is this available for our event in June?" he asked about the pavilion, which might save the service club money and/or time setting up a large tent for the barbecue judging.

Getting grant money for the pavilion "was a joint effort by the city and the agriculture group," the mayor replied. "To get the grant, there had to be restrooms," and those facilities are accessed by concrete steps between a new parking lot and the foot of the hill where the pavilion was built.

The Farmers Market -- that would be open in June when the Rotary Club plans to conduct the barbecue cook-off - might prove to be a benefit for the Rotarians.

"You might want to have them here in the morning and the cook-off in the afternoon," Woods said.

Yarbrough understood and continued the thought: "We're definitely wanting to open this to other groups." One example is the Lions Club's pancake breakfast, he said. While it's the earliest event of Octoberfest that includes a craft show, a breakfast for visitors could generate revenue for that service club in June.

The Rotarians' barbecue cook-off generates revenue for that club because it charges an entry fee for the cooks, but a wider source of money -- with other attractions for the town's economy -- is useful for the club, according to discussion at the pavilion on Friday.

"We're not trying to recreate the goat festival," Yarbrough said, "but to have something to raise money for the Rotary..."

He recognizes that it's not feasible to charge an entry fee to the park grounds because it's so wide open, but under the current arrangement, revenue for the club is only from entry fees paid by cooks.

Nor does he anticipate entertainment that's as "prominent" as what's appeared at Goats, Music and More.

"We had looked at having a carnival with the barbecue," Yarbrough continued.

However, the carnival that sets up near the community college each year: "They run in a circuit, so it's not available."

Nevertheless, the part of the old Murray horse farm that's just across Rock Creek from the park's stage "is a lot more level than it looks," Yarbrough said. To have the cook off there, the contestants "need water, not power."

As a result, the cook-off's expansion area is where the goat tents have been located during Goats, Music and More, he said.

Yarbrough emphasized that his discussion with the mayor should not be construed as a commitment by the Rotary Club to anything because the members are still planning the cook-off in June.

Still, the Rotarian pointed out the organization's basic game plan: "The more money we make on these events, the more money we have to contribute."

Yarbrough also responded to comments from a few of the cook-off chefs who spoke about rescheduling the event to June. One pointed out that the Memphis barbecue cook-off is in June, thereby raising the prospect of a conflict in schedules.

Only four of the 42 teams competing in the Rotary's cook-off in early October had participated in the Memphis cook-off, Yarbrough reported. He and other Rotarians have concluded that the Memphis cook-off will not be a competing event. Furthermore, other factors affect a cook's decision on whether to compete in Memphis, or Lewisburg.

Woods said she'd consult with others at City Hall about what she learned from Yarbrough, and he is taking his conclusions from the conversation back to the service club.