On May 22, 2011, a powerful mile-wide, multiple-vortex tornado devastated the city of Joplin, Missouri, killing 158 people, injuring 1,150 and causing $2.8 billion in property damage. In the aftermath, a couple of guys named Stan Hays and Will Cleaver were wondering what they might do to help, and it struck them that maybe the survivors and the rescue workers deserved a nice hot barbecue meal instead of FEMA rations. Thus was the not-for-profit disaster relief organization Operation BBQ Relief (OBR) born; in the years since its founding, OBR has provided more than 1.75 million meals to 44 communities in 24 states ravaged by natural catastrophes.
One of OBR’s many dedicated volunteers, Dana Reed, a cardiology nurse at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, joined up in 2012 and now organizes fundraising events throughout the Northeast. The Emerson Resort and Spa in Mount Tremper will play host next weekend to a world-class two-day culinary event called Grill’n and Chill’n in the Catskills, at which top pitmasters, celebrity chefs, distillers and outdoor guides will be displaying their skills and sharing secrets and tips.
Cast-iron and Dutch-oven demos with sampling, jerky-making, open-pit cooking and bourbon-tasting are just a few of the culinary experiences that attendees will be able to enjoy, while contributing to a great cause. Competitors will battle it out for a spot at the 2018 World Food Championships in the Brookside Burger Battle. On Friday night the Black Dirt Bandits perform, and on Saturday you can even take a Fly Fishing 101 tutorial. The weekend wraps up with a lovely gala reception and silent auction, followed by a pairing dinner prepared by the OBR team.
Grill’n and Chill’n in the Catskills runs from 3 p.m. on Friday, April 13 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, April 14. Ticket packages run from $116.46 to $305.89; call (845) 688-4141 to inquire about discounted overnight accommodations for attendees. The Emerson Resort and Spa is located at 5340 Route 28 in Mount Tremper. To learn more about OBR, visit www.operationbbqrelief.org.