Master grillers square off in George Co. for a good cause

GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It was a fierce competition in George County on Saturday as dozens of grill enthusiasts from across the United States went head-to-head in a barbecue challenge. Organizers said the contest was for a good cause.

The master grillers were up early chopping wood and getting their grills hot and ready to smoke out their competition with finger-licking barbecue.

"Everybody wants to win," said competitor Scott Parker.

Lucedale and Central Firefighter Rusty Swingle agrees. He came prepared with plenty of meat to tempt the judges.

"We have pulled pork, briskets. We have sausage, we have chicken and we have ribs," said Swingle.

Alton McInnis, of Gulfport, was also confident he would bring home the victory. McInnis said he has the record to prove it, winning at least 10 competitions in the past few years.

"It is the seasoning and the sauces," said McInnis.

George County's Volunteer Firefighter Association organized this challenge that involved nearly 30 contenders from New Jersey to here on the Coast.

"This is our fifth annual, so we have been doing it four years backyard, but we stepped into the pro division this year," organizer Jeffery Erkhart said.

Erkhart said proceeds from the barbecue event will help promote education and help the needy in the community.

"What we do is use this as a fundraiser. What we do is give out scholarships, two scholarships a year to high school seniors of volunteer firefighters. We also help wounded and fallen firefighters with expenses that occur during a fire or they lose time from work," Erkhart said.

That's good news to competitor Patrick Banks, who works with Operation BBQ Relief. Members from his disaster response team have been cooking thousands of delicious, free meals this week for Mississippi and Arkansas tornado victims and first responders.

"One thing you will see about the barbecue community is they are a very giving community," said Banks.

Erkhart said along with bragging rights, the champion of the professional division wins $4,400 in cash prizes as well as awards. The champion of the backyard division will win $1,100 in cash prizes.

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