Elkhart's south side residents come together for food and fun over Labor Day weekend

Elkhart police joined residents of the city’s south side for a Labor Day weekend celebration that included a barbecue cook-off in Roosevelt Park.

Posted on Aug. 31, 2014 at 7:42 p.m.

ELKHART — Elkhart police officers sweating over a grill mid-afternoon in Roosevelt Park didn't know how many hot dogs they’d cooked.

They brought about 1,000 hot dogs to the Southside Family Fun Fest, a fundraising event for Elkhart’s south side neighborhood, and their grill had been busy since the festival opened at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31.

Next to the hot dog tent, Officer Wayne Bias supervised children playing a mini-golf game. He held on to a giant bucket of lollypops with one hand while also dancing to the gospel music drifting over the crowds.

Free food, sunshine and the opportunity for kids to play and adults to try some local barbecue brought many to the Southside Family Fun Fest Sunday.

The event was organized as a fundraiser, with a barbecue contest intended to help raise $15,000 to establish a family movie night at Roosevelt Center. 

Talisha Sanders and Dacey Davis, members of the community group My Hood Needz Me, were selling tickets for barbecue all day, and they were swamped with business.

Tickets were $1 per sample, but most people in line bought enough tickets to sample barbecue from all seven contestants. 

After several people in a row donated their change, Davis said she was pleased by the spirit of generosity from festival-goers. 

"In this area where so much negative happens, it’s nice to see the people coming together with no drama, to support the cause,” she said.

The festival is the second event in recent months that has brought together people in Elkhart’s south side neighborhood, an area that’s known for the crime that happens there.

In July, residents gathered in the park for a community water balloon fight sponsored by the Historic Roosevelt Tenant Association and the Elkhart Fire Department.

Sunday’s festival, in several participants’ view, was another step toward positive change for the neighborhood. 

"I went to Roosevelt School for first through sixth grade, and this brings back memories, being back on this turf,” Rose Miller, co-owner of Elkhart frozen yogurt shop Twisted Cow said, in between serving up frozen yogurt for customers at the festival. “Having the fire department and the police department here, hopefully that will create some bonds.”

Barbecue contestant Vernell Wilson said he decided to enter to support the cause — and to share his special barbecue recipe with festival goers. 

"This is a good event for Elkhart,” Wilson said. “We've needed something like this in Elkhart for a long time.”

Five judges — including The Elkhart Truth’s Marshall King — ultimately chose Sam Borum as the overall winner of the barbecue contest.

King said the seven entries were evenly matched and judges struggled to pick a winner.

Borum has cooked at home for years and is chef at The Vine, but this was his first contest. He entered Sunday morning and ended up winning, playing to the crowd as the awards were announced. He got a new grill for being the champion.

"I'm going to use it," he said.

He rubbed then smoked the ribs before saucing them. He cooked them for about three hours.

Borum said he'll continue cooking every chance he gets and hopes to establish a catering truck business.

Other barbecue contestants included Vernell Wilson, Toby “Chef” Jones, Curtis Bufford, the Slow N Low Team, Nickie Smith and Gregory Porter. 

Sarah Welliver and Marshall King contributed to this story.

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks


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