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‘Que for Charity:

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Step Up for Soldiers BBQ Cookoff
Carolina Beach Lake
1/28, 11 a.m. 
Free admission; $5 sample tickets

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Barbecue is quite a holy topic around these parts—or any part of the South, truth be told. Among the waves of cook-offs and restaurants from NC to Texas, Tennessee to Kansas, barbecue can cause as much heated debate as Republicans in one of their gazillion GOP standoffs.

But there is one standard ingredient that can make the shredded or chopped, grilled or smoked pork or beef all the better—aside from eastern NC’s standard vinegar-based red sauce, that is. Charity! Folks who have a love for both the ‘que and supporting troops musn’t miss the chance to get down to Carolina Beach for the ultimate BBQ cook-off this Saturday, January 28th. Aside from filling the gullet with drippy, rich deliciousness, every penny will be donated to Step Up For Soldiers.

Founded in 2004 by New Jersey born Tom Russell, the military man served his country and is now a Vietnam Vet. He has spent 23 years as a Port Authority police officer in New York and tragically lost 10 good friends on 9/11. His experiences left him wanting to give back to wounded soldiers and their families in any way possible.

“Combat-wounded veterans from the 1/120th returning from Iraq is what caused me to initiate Step Up,” he says. “I wanted to give something back to the brave men and women fighting for freedom. Step Up For Soldiers does whatever we need to do to help make the soldiers life whole again.”

Services range from building ramps for wheelchair access, constructing special facilities for blinded soldiers or offering transport assistance for soldiers and their families.
Step Up For Soldiers now operates off nine dedicated volunteers, who do all their own fund-raising. This inspired Bobby and Rose McConville to combine their love of BBQ with their desire to support the charity.

“This is the easiest hard thing I’ve ever done,” Bobby laughs. “The idea was met with overwhelming support from the very first minute. Harris Teeter has generously donated all the meat for the big day.

“All the participants will just be normal folk equipped with their own secret recipes,” he continues. “There are no restaurants or official professional chefs involved in the cook-off. Just good, old-fashioned home-grilled food at its best!”

Tickets to join in the feast will be available on site. There will be 12 judges, including Sam Long, chief magistrate of the district, and Kim Munley, Carolina Beach’s very own hero, who promptly stopped the Fort Hood Texas massacre in 2009. They will be blindfolded as they taste the samples from each of the 25 stalls involved. The great taste challenge begins at noon, and the winners will be awarded prizes around 2 p.m.

Gates open at 11 a.m. and admission is free; however, after the double-blind judging, tickets to sample all participants’ entries are available for purchase, with all proceeds benefiting Step Up for Soldiers. Tickets will be sold in $5 blocks, meaning folks can taste five samples for basically a buck each. Also, there will be wine, beer and soft drinks available, in addition to oysters and chowder thanks to Michael’s Seafood. Entertainment will be provided by Wilmington’s very own Dog’s Ave, who will play a unique mix of rock, reggae, grunge, blues and classic covers among their own original tracks.

Headlining a high-energy show will be Machine Gun, with a medley of covers from the ‘70s and ‘80s. DJ “Lil Mike,” Mike Worley, of Edge Entertainment, will also be spinning a wide variety of tunes throughout the day, in addition to keeping everyone up to date with what’s going on. There will be raffles to enter and local arts and crafts vendors to check out.

“All soldiers, of all backgrounds, of all generations are invited to the event and we look forward to seeing them there,” Bobby says. “Rain or shine, it’s on!”

The event takes place at Carolina Beach Lake Park, at Atlantic Avenue and Lake Park Boulevard. Wheel-chair access will be provided, and for more information, or if local businesses would like to make a donation for the raffles, contact Rose McConville at 910-547-0087 or e-mail her at


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