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Prepare to enjoy La Vernia’s party in the park

Prepare to enjoy La Vernia’s party in the park
LVN FILE PHOTO Chris Tandy (left) and Richard Rhodes of the “Pigs in Heat” team prepare their brisket for presentation to the judges during last year’s La Vernia BBQ Cook-off.

Video to come

“Alligators,” said Kevin Stanush. “This may be the first time alligators have been spotted in La Vernia.”

Stanush, a member of the Greater La Vernia Parks Foundation board, is encouraging everyone to visit the La Vernia City Park this Friday and Saturday for the foundation’s 13th annual La Vernia BBQ Cook-off, which will feature presentations by CMT’s “Gator 911” crew.

Educational and entertaining, “Gator 911” features conservationist Gary Saurage, owner of Beaumont’s Gator Country Gator Rescue. It may be, as Kevin said, the first time alligators have been seen in La Vernia!

In addition to the chance to see gators up close, this signature event features fun for the whole family food, fun, games, arts and craft vendors, and a “Kids Cook” event, with the centerpiece being the IBCA-sanctioned barbecue cook-off that draws competitors from across Texas and beyond.

Proceeds from this perennially popular event go toward improvements in the city park. Through the years, these have included a playscape, butterfly garden, the park’s gazebo, and more.

Who knew, 13 years ago, that La Vernia would become a summer mecca for barbecue aficionados and back-yard grillers, all vying for the titles of best ribs, chicken, or brisket?

The parks foundation built the event from scratch, Kevin said. “Seeing all of the people and families come to something that you helped to create is very rewarding,” he added.

It’s been an adventure for the foundation members, and they’ve learned through the years, carefully crafting the planning and staging of the event.

“We have the planning of this event down to a science,” Karen Geisel said. “It still requires a lot of preparation, phone calls, and legwork, but we know exactly what needs to be done and to get everything up and running.”

“Start early,” Robert Friesenhahn said, one thing they learned in the very beginning.

“émake changes slowly, and look at what works and what does not, and adapt accordingly,” Kevin added.

All the hard work pays off, as they see teams return year after year 120 in all and thousands of people flock to La Vernia to end their summers with this fun-filled event.

Each year, they learn something, and new memories are made.

As well as hosting the barbecue cook-off, the Greater La Vernia Parks Foundation members enjoy trying their hand at a little barbecuing, too. Do they have favorites they throw on the grill?

“I love steaks and potatoes and corn on the cob on the grill,” Shirley Stanush said. Her family prefers hamburgers on the grill, she said.

Friesenhahn likes “Everything. If you can cook it on the stove or oven, you can cook it on a pit!”

Geisel enjoys barbecuing steaks over pecan wood.

And Kevin’s favorite?

“Fajitas, by far,” he said. “I burn everything to a crisp.”

You won’t find food burned to a crisp this Friday and Saturday in the La Vernia City Park. What you will find is a huge, fun-filled, family-friendly, down-home party in the park, with a little something for everyone to enjoy.

Cook-off safety

The La Vernia Police Department welcomes everyone to the park this weekend, to enjoy the 13 th annual La Vernia BBQ Cookoff in safety.

“We’ll expect maybe 3,000 to 4,000 people over the weekend,” said Sgt. Danny Pitts. “We’ll assign officers to work and patrol in the park to provide safety and security for participants, as well as guests. On Saturday, we’ll also have two horse-mounted patrols.”

They’ve had very little trouble through the years with this event, only “a few drunken fights,” Pitts said.

Park visitors should plan to have fun. However, Pitts said, “Be vigilant for suspicious activity.”

For safety purposes, no glass bottles may leave the cook sites, and no coolers are allowed at the dance.

A police command trailer will be on the security road by the park’s back gate, should anyone require assistance.

Have fun and be safe!

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