The upcoming fourth annual Bridges Band & BBQ Bash is believed to the biggest barbecue event ever to be held in Ellis County – and more than 600 judges are needed to help with this fundraiser, which will be drawing competitors from across the United States on Saturday, Nov. 9.
“We have 250 professional barbecue teams coming in from all over the country and as far away as California,” Bridges Training Foundation COO and director Michael Boler shared with the Sun. “These teams are recognized nationally as some of the premier BBQ pit masters in the country.”
The teams will be on hand to compete for $65,000 in prize money offered in the Texas State Championship BBQ Cook-off, as officiated by the International BBQ Cookers Association.
“Additionally, we have three television celebrities coming,” Boler said. “Chef Michele Ragussis from the Food Channel and Chef Plum, known from FoxCT and the Food Network, will be flying in from New York to judge our Cupcake War and the State Championship BBQ Cook-off officiated by the International BBQ Cookers Association. And our local celebrity, 13-year-old Chef Kenzie Mills of Midlothian, who made appearances on ‘Chopped Jr.’ and ‘Top Chef Jr.’, will also be judging the Cup Cake War.”
Each year, the Bridges Bands and BBQ Bash looks to raise community awareness while also serving as a fundraising event to benefit individuals with intellectually disabled and other special needs. Bridges Training Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities overcome barriers that hinder them from enjoying all aspects of life within their community.
This year’s event takes place from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Ellis County Expo Center in Waxahachie, with a variety of activities offered in addition to the cooking competitions. These include:
• Live music by local favorites, The Haze and Calamity Janes, the 2017 TRRMA New Band.
• Demonstrations by local special needs dance, choir and karate groups.
• Kid zone with bounce houses, games, workshops, face painting, The Creature Teacher, Ellis County Batman and Friends, and prize giveaways.
• Cup Cake War with 10 specialty shops, individuals and bakeries competing for $600 in prize money.
• Silent auctions with concert tickets, theme baskets, airline tickets and more.
• Wine pull with 250 bottles of wine that can be won by pulling a cork with a number on it to win the corresponding bottle.
• 50/50 raffle.
• Raffle with prizes that include an all-inclusive tropical vacation for two valued at $2500.
• Goat yoga ($30 per person).
• $1,000 giveaway for the organization that sends the most judges to the event, with a total of 630 judges needed for the competition.
“For many years, our public school systems fulfill all the needs that a child with a disability may have,” Boler said. “They are their transportation, entertainment, mealtime and, most importantly, social. Upon graduation most, if not all, of that goes away and most will face a life of sitting at home. Without the ability to get a driver’s license, it’s likely most will never leave their home unless their parent takes them.
“Employment is seen as crucial for improving the quality of life for people with these disabilities and considered a benchmark for measuring the success of special education programs. Yet the jobs picture is as bleak now as it was more than a decade ago.”
Since its inception in 2012, Bridges has worked with more than 350 young people who have disabilities and their families. In 2018 alone, Bridges provided 739 hours of autism support, 1,072 hours of job coaching and 21,584 hours of curriculum-based academics, along with 18 client job placements.
“Through our efforts, we have helped our clients find and keep jobs, promoted their access to community resources through social and recreational activities, taught life skills education and self-advocacy,” Boler said.
Bridges Training Foundation is located at 110 E. Ohio Ave., Midlothian.
For more information, visit the organization’s website at www.bridgestf.org, which also has detailed information about the Bridges Band & BBQ Bash as well as signup forms for judges and competitors. The foundation can be reached at 469-672-6902.