From dozens of grills, Dutch ovens and oversize smokers came the unmistakable, deliciously savory aroma of barbecue poultry, pork and beef Saturday afternoon during the sixth annual BBQ Challenge, part of the Buffalo Grove Days celebration continuing through Monday at Raupp Boulevard and Lake-Cook Road.
Among this year's competitors was Tim Hoffman, whose team, The Backyard Guys, earned best-in-show awards the past two years.
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Winning is mostly about bragging rights, said Hoffman whose extended family members -- all of them sporting blue-and-white Hawaiian shirts -- were on hand to help and show their support.
For Hoffman, grilling is a family tradition passed down from father to son.
"It's something my family has always loved to do," said Hoffman who for the last three months, tested recipes on relatives in preparation for Saturday's competition.
Good barbecue depends on controlling the heat, said Hoffman, and ensuring the barbecue sauce and rub (both homemade) complement each other. Also on hand were Jim Becker, of Hanover Park, and Scott Thomas of Arlington Heights, who call themselves Running with the Boars. Competing in Buffalo Grove's challenge for the first time, they hoped their specially designed Ugly Drum Smoker, which Becker converted from an oil drum for $80, would bolster their chance of winning.
Becker monitored the smoker while Thomas mixed the sauce, whose ingredients are so secret, joked Becker, "he won't even tell me."
They say part of the competition's appeal is the camaraderie that develops between fellow competitors, who all share a love of the grill.
And while they don't share secrets, they will share their fare.
"We made candy bacon this morning and passed it out to everyone," Thomas said.
This year's challenge attracted 19 competitors serving up 53 different options in five categories: burgers; poultry; steaks, chops and brisket; ribs and pulled pork, said Chuck Posniak who proposed the contest six years ago and has run it ever since.
The first time John Klbecka entered, he used one grill. Four years later, the Buffalo Grove resident presides over several Dutch ovens and a vintage Weber from the 1960s.
He and his group call themselves the Timber Hillbilles and dress in bib overalls and straw hats. Among this year's honorary hillbillies was singer/songwriter Mark Lyons, one of the finalists in this year's Suburban Chicago's Got Talent competition. He entertained Klbecka and company while they oversaw the preparation of burgers and beans, pork, chicken and garlic potatoes.
"It's a nice way to spend an afternoon," Klbecka said.