Big Crowds, Success for 2016 Pit Barbecue
More than 2,000 people chowed down on beef, pork or chicken barbecue while an estimated 6,000 or more came to browse vendor booths, enjoy the entertainment and visit with friends and neighbors at the 64th Annual Laveen Pit Barbecue.
Put on annually by the Laveen Community Council, an all-volunteer nonprofit community group, the barbecue on Feb. 21 is a tradition for Laveen Village residents, dating to the original event in 1952 when a group of rancher’s wives hosted a fundraiser at the old Laveen Elementary School at the southwest corner of Dobbins Road and 51st Avenue to fight against polio.
“This is the first year we went since it was moved to Corona Ranch,” said Amy Fox DeMerrit, a 10-year Laveen resident. “We were very impressed with the facility, vendors and council volunteers. It was a great family event and we are looking forward to next year. “
Stephanie Hurd, 2015 barbecue chairman, said the focus hasn’t changed since the barbecue’s origin.
“The biggest thing about the barbecue is that it is a community event, put on by the community, for the community,” Hurd said. “That is what we try to get across to people. This is solely a volunteer effort. Any money raised goes back to the community.”
Money raised from the barbecue and other community council events provides scholarships and financial support to a variety of local organizations, including youth and civic groups. The council currently is accepting applications for three $1,000 scholarships given annually to local high school seniors to assist in furthering their educations.
“It is such a fun event for the entire family,” said Aimee Janca, an 11-year Laveen resident. “We really enjoyed the live music and rodeo events. So awesome. The best part is bumping into so many wonderful neighbors there.”
Hurd said volunteers met the last week of February for a review of how the event went and to look at where it can be improved for next year. Hurd was a co-chair in 2015 and volunteered in 2014, making this her third year as one of the key organizers.
“We’re still crunching numbers, but it looks like at least 2,000 meal tickets were sold,” Hurd said. As for total attendance, “That’s the harder part. We know how many people eat, but we have no idea of how many just come. There were about 1,000 cars parked throughout the day.”
Crystal Marvin, who served as a vendor co-chair with Koni Gould, said 120 booths were set up with products and services ranging from local schools raising money to craft booths to local politicians. She said 120 is the maximum capacity to ensure everyone has sufficient space for their booth and for visitors to have ample room to browse.
“I think it went really, really well,” Marvin said. “I think we had a nice flow of traffic all day. Vendors told me that they had really good traffic. Some reported pretty good sales, while others were only OK. That’s a typical event. You never know who your crowd will be on a typical day.”
Also, banners were strategically placed throughout the event to remind everyone the event is an all-volunteer event organized by the Laveen Community Council and much of the costs are covered by local business sponsors.
Dignity Health’s Arizona General Hospital was the headline sponsor this year and “they brought in Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders,” Hurd said. “We try to do something new every year to bring new people.”
Some of the new events also included a free toddler play and, for older kids, inflatable bounce houses and “hamster balls”. “That’s the one thing I wanted to do that I didn’t get to do,” Hurd said, laughing as she referred to the human-sized inflatable balls that people climb inside and roll, much like the little balls made for hamsters.
Hurd noted there were other new touches this year, including sandwich boards throughout the grounds to alert visitors to the entertainment schedule at the indoor and outdoor stages, as well as the rodeo grounds.
Hurd said the one area criticized this year was the long wait in lines to get food. She said the plan was to have four food lines instead of two, but there were insufficient tents brought to cover four food lines. With temperatures in mid-80s, it was a hot wait of about 30 minutes to get food.
Next year she said the plan will be to add additional food lines, or stagger the eating times so that various groups eat at different times.
“Overall it was a great event, and other than the food lines — which once we didn’t have the tents there was little we could do about it — it was a good event and we’ve got tons of good feedback,” Hurd said.
Another goal for next year is to recruit more volunteers. Hurd said that this year a core group of eight volunteer organizers and an additional 150 other volunteers put on the event, but “we struggled with getting additional volunteers this year. That’s one of the biggest things we struggled with it.”
As Marvin noted, “everyone does this on top of our regular jobs and our regular lives.”
To get involved with next year’s event, stop by the Laveen Community Council which meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month in Building A at the Laveen Education Center, 51st Avenue and Baseline Road.
Visit www.laveen.org for more information about the LCC.
Written by Rose Hutchinson Tring