While this marks the 65th year that the Laveen has put on its pit barbecue, the thousands of residents heading over to Corona Ranch on Feb. 11 to chow down on barbecue will find a few changes, plenty of good grub, entertainment and community spirit:
The barbecue is taking place 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11 this year, rather than the traditional Sunday. The hours were also extended, starting an hour earlier, and ending an hour later to accommodate an expected larger crowd due to having it on Saturday.
Instead of community volunteers cooking, shredding and serving the barbecue, area vendors will be providing and serving meals: Rudy’s Country Store Bar-B-Q, Texas BBQ House, Smoothie Run, AZ Barbeque & Catering, and Smoakie Kitchen barbecue. Prices will be $10 for adults; $5 for children.
There will be more activities for children, including hamster balls, Melt Down, bounce houses and obstacle courses.
Other fun activities include Racin’ Bacon (pot belly pigs race each other) a cow-milking contest and a mechanical bull.
Entertainers include: Screamin’ Javelinas, Dr. Ron and the Painkillers, Whiskey Bent and more from local youth and dance groups.
The nonprofit Laveen Community Council organizes the annual event with a crew of 200-300 volunteers from the community. Money raised at the event goes back to the community in the form of financial support for youth organizations, youth sports and scholarships.
This is the second year that Laveen resident Stephanie Hurd has been chairwoman of the barbecue. She said some of the changes this year are a result of learning from her experience last year’s experience when more than 2,500 food tickets were sold among an estimated 6,000 attendees.
“Because the event has grown so much, we brought in barbecue vendors … basically to handle the crowds,” Hurd said. “Last year, was rough. I spent three hours washing dishes. We were looking for different option. It’s a change, but there are some iffy things when you have all volunteers cooking and shredding barbecue.”
At last year’s event, which had very warm temperatures, folks waited in long lines in the hot weather to get barbecue. Having five vendors will give patrons more options, Hurd said, and hopefully cut down on the wait times.
Hurd said there also will be 400 pounds of pork barbecue cooked in the traditional pit available for bulk purchase. “We are keeping the tradition of cooking the barbecue in a pit.”
Her goal this year is to educate Laveen about the LCC and the many benefits it provides the community. “I’m really pushing the Laveen Community Council so that we can get more people involved. The same people keep doing it over and over, and we’re burned out. The LCC supports youth sports, scholarships, community events. I am trying to encourage people to get involved.”
Crystal Marvin, LCC member and coordinator of vendor booths, said it’s important to remember the event completely run by volunteers.
“We want to remind everyone that the Laveen Community Council is all volunteers and the barbecue is all volunteers,” Marvin said. “Second, that all the money is given back to the community. This is a great opportunity to support local youth and local businesses.”
She estimates there will be between 70 and 80 vendor booths ranging from local schools raising money to local businesses offering goody bags and drawings for free services.
The first Laveen barbecue took place in 1952 when a group of rancher’s wives decided to have a fund-raising event to fight against polio. The barbecue took place at the Laveen School, at the southwest corner of Dobbins Road and 51st Avenue, now the home to the Laveen Education Center. Over the years, the barbecue took place at the same location until more recently when it was at Betty Fairfax High School for a time, and for the past two years at Corona Ranch.
Bonnie Carroll, a member of the LCC and the person in charge of organizing volunteers for the event, said she created sign-up for on SignUp Genius in mid-January and has filled all but 80 of the 220 volunteer time slots. This is the first year there has been an online sign-up available.
“With growth, comes change,” Carroll said. “A lot of people do show up the day of and just help. We should be OK. Realistically, not doing the pit barbecue has made it more manageable.”
Marcus Moody, a Laveen resident and owner of Smoothie Run Internet Café, said he is participating as meal vendor to offer vegetarian options for attendees.
“Smoothie Run is going to provide non-meat items for people who don’t want to eat meat,” Moody said. “We have salads and pitas for people who want healthier choices. They really wanted me to do vegetarian type items.”
Moody said that if he weren’t a meal provider, he still would have a booth for Smoothie Run, like he did last year. “The barbecue is where the Laveen community meets and if you want to get your business out there, you just need be there.”
For families wanting to save a dollar or two, wrist bands for the Kids Fun Zone are being sold at Scooptacular and Del Monte Market for $8 in advance. On the day of the barbecue, the bands will cost $10.
Rose Hutchinson Tring is a long-time journalist and owner of AZ Media Maven, a Laveen-based marketing and public relations company. She is also the founder ofFinditinLaveen.com, a local business directory and free community calendar. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org