Grill masters compete at BBQ charity competition at Manatee County fair

jdeleon@bradenton.comJanuary 19, 2014 

PALMETTO -- With the festivities in full swing at the Manatee County Fair, many came out Saturday to put their grilling skills to the test.

The chefs arrived early Saturday morning, receiving their portion of pork, lighting their backyard grills and letting the good times roll as they prepared appetizers and other treats throughout the day in the Seventh Annual Manatee County Fair Charity BBQ Competition.

"This definitely the best part, the sharing and sampling," Brian Sellers said.

Sellers and the rest of the Geomatics Grill Team combined their skills in hopes of a victory.

"We are putting together a whole bunch of bad ideas and hopefully it will come out good," Sellers said.

It wasn't all work.

"It's a good time," teammate Joe Ladika said.

While several teams of the self-proclaimed grill masters participated in the competition, only three teams walked away winners. They

were awarded a cash prize to be donated to the charity or organization of their choice.

In first place was the Eco Consultants team, featuring Alec Hoffner and Chris Bryant on the grill. Their $500 cash prize will go to the Manatee County 4-H Foundation.

In second place was the Geomatics Grill Team featuring Sellers, Ladika, Bruce Hoopingarner and Leo Mills Jr. on the grill. Their $250 cash prize will go to the Myakka Community Center.

And in third place was Mr. Lee's team with Dave Zeller on the grill. The $150 cash prize will go to the Lakewood Ranch Marching Band.

Others were hopeful for a victory.

"We took first place in this four years ago," Bill Burgess said. "We are using the same recipe, so we have our fingers crossed."

The team, which also included Mitch Stewart and Hank White, was hoping on winning the prize money for The Pirates of the Gulf Coast, which they are all part of. The group helps to support Foundation for Dreams, the Boys & Girls Club and the Humane Society, they said.

Meanwhile, as the grills were burning, many at the fair were drawn to the Swine Sale.

Katelyn Carothers, of Haile Middle School, anxiously awaited her time to present her Berkshire pig, Ellie May.

"She's got a funny personality," Katelyn said. "I'm excited."

It was Katelyn's fifth time presenting at the fair's swine sale, and she had hopes the proceeds from the sale of her prized Ellie May would go toward her college fund.

"She's a really good pig," Katelyn said. "I hope someone buys her for a good prize because I worked really hard on her."

The fair runs through Jan. 26 at the fairgrounds, 1402 14th Ave. W., Palmetto. Gates open at 10 a.m. Sunday.Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors (55 and older), $5 for military and children 6-12, free for children younger than 6.Information: 941-722-1639, or email

Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeleon1012.

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