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.
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.