edited poker runedited bbq checkIt’s hard to beat a combination of great food and a great cause.

The American Legion BBQ Cook-Off in Sikeston scheduled for May 30 promises to be just that.

Jimmy Cantrell, one of the organizers of the event, notes this is the third year for the competition, and it will be held rain or shine.

“This event has just grown bigger every year,” said Cantrell.

Part of the reason for the growth is the BBQ, but a big part of the reason is the cause.

The entire weekend of events raises money for the Bloomfield, MO Veterans Cemetery.

“A lot of people have the misconception that the cemetery is funded 100 percent by federal and state funds,” explained Cantrell. “That isn’t correct at all. Every year there are expenses that are not covered by those funds.”
And, as someone who has had many family members and friends who have served in the military, Cantrell insists this is a debt we are all obligated to pay, to make sure the cemetery is kept in top shape as an honor to all veterans.

The Cook-Off Competition is held in conjunction with a Poker Run and several other events held the same weekend.
Registration for the Poker Run is 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday at the American Legion Post 114 in Sikeston. Bikes go out at 10 a.m. and bikes in at 4 p.m. Entry is $20 per bike or vehicle, and $5 per passenger. For details, call Tony Hurt at 573-703-6600.

Entry for the Corn Hole Tournament is $25 per team. Registration will be held 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, and tournament play will begin at 7:15 p.m. There will be first, second, and third place winners, and all tournament players get to eat free chicken wings.

The Wing War Competition registration is at 3 p.m. on Friday with entries turned in at 8 p.m. Wings can be prepared in any style.

Cantrell noted that last year, the weekend’s events raised about $14,000 for the Veterans Cemetery. The first year it took in about $10,000.

“So we want to surpass those amounts this year,” said Cantrell.

As far as the BBQ Competition is concerned, he expects this year to have about 15 teams participating, with teams coming from Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and of course from all over Southeast Missouri. Teams wishing to enter must do so postmarked by May 23.

This competition is unique in that all of the meat used by the teams is provided by the American Legion.
“This keeps it a truly level playing field for all the teams,” said Cantrell.

And, this competition is all about the BBQ.

“We don’t allow garnishments…none of that. This is all about the cooking,” smiled Cantrell.

He said the idea for the event came about when several teams expressed interest in doing events for charity. No one could think of a more deserving charity than the Veterans Cemetery.

“Personally, this cemetery is like home to me,” said Cantrell. “I’ve got a lot of family here.”

He noted that last year when storms swept through the area, doing a lot of damage at the cemetery, the funds raised through the Cook-Off events made it possible to get it back in top shape.

“There are always costs that go beyond their budget,” said Cantrell. “We’ve helped repair the PA system, and we’ve helped repair several mowers.”

This event gains support and notoriety every year.

It is known as a non-sanctioned BBQ event because there are few rules for the cooks to have to follow, and the public has access to the great food produced.

“Last year we went through over 500 plates,” said Cantrell, laughing. “That’s a lot of barbecue.”

Entry per team is $100. Cook teams will be judged on ribs, pork steaks, and half chickens. Royal Oak will be providing the charcoal for the event. Grand Champion will receive a $1,000 prize, with cash prizes also going to first, second and third places in each category. There will also be a prize for overall first, second, and third place.

Also Saturday, there will be an auction and a 50/50 drawing. Food will be served 5 p.m. Saturday until food runs out. Cost is $8 per plate. Plates will include also baked beans, slaw and chips.

As a former restaurant owner himself, he loves the simplicity of this event.

“In my mind, if you have to have garnishment to make the barbecue good, then it’s not really good barbecue. Great barbecue stands on its own,” he emphasized.

Music will also be featured at this event, with “3rd Wheel” providing their brand of Southern Rock and Blues. Members of the band include Chris Lovelady on guitar; DJ Kennard on vocals; and Bobby Couch on bass and vocals.

As a special courtesy, designated drivers will be available with shuttles, and special room rates are available at The Days Inn.
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For additional information, contact Cantrell at cantrelljim65@gmail.com.

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Tammy Hilderbrand has a bachelor's degree in Communications from SEMO University, and a master's degree in education. She wrote for Cape Girardeau's Southeast Missourian Newspaper for over five years, taught in the Cape Girardeau Public School System for 16 years, and now owns her own design and custom jewelry company. Tammy lives in Ripley County and looks forward to new opportunities for our entire region to grow.