13
Sep

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party: Our Outstanding Pit Crew

Amy packs for the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

Amy’s essentials: Pappy, Hooker’s House, and bling.

The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party is our most highly anticipated event each year. We begin planning in January and packing up in May.
Sexy dancer on top of the 17th Street BBQ pitsJust prior to hitting the road, Phillip marks the beginning of the journey with his traditional sexy rib dance atop the Ole Hickory pits.
17th Street BBQ pits on the road on the way to the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party17th Street BBQ rigOur crew from Southern Illinois starts the drive on Tuesday. The convoy includes our trailers and Ole Hickory Pits, pulled by our Chevrolet trucks, and a box truck. Each vehicle is stocked with snacks and a chatty person to keep the driver awake and we plan strategic stops at various barbecue restaurants along the way. Navigating from New Jersey, through tunnels and over bridges, is the trickiest part of the journey. Tire blowouts, mechanical issues, and traffic delays all make for a good story on the other end of the trip.
The Hotel RogerUpon arrival we’re welcomed warmly by the gracious staff at the Roger, the host hotel for the past six years. Located just blocks from the Block Party site, it’s a veritable Who’s Who in the lobby as pitmasters, chefs, staff, and speakers congregate.

17th Street BBQ Pit Crew takes cover from the rain at the Big Apple Barbecue Block PartyWe’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather for the past 11 years and this year driving rain made the Friday set-up more than a little challenging. This was a huge storm and it rained sideways into the early morning. We purchased all of the rain ponchos we could find and vinyl banners, anchored with Coke cans, became tents under which to huddle while loading the pits.

17th Street BBQ Core Pit Crew on day one at the Members of the 17th Street BBQ pit crew putting rub on the ribs at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

Our core Pit Crew: Jenn, Laurie, Sara, Becky, Mike, Amy, Woody, Faye, Luke, and Brent. Phillip is not pictured; he had the night shift and was not on site when we had a minute to take these photos.

Fortunately the rain stopped and the weekend was gorgeous. Our booth alone fed almost 13,000 people and it takes many hands to produce and serve that quantity of barbecue. Our core Pit Crew totally rocked it and we were joined by some of the best volunteers ever.

17th Street BBQ Pit Crew on day two at the Members of the 17th Street BBQ pit crew putting rub on the ribs at the Big Apple Barbecue Block PartyHere’s our group on day one.

17th Street BBQ Pit Crew on day one at the Members of the 17th Street BBQ pit crew putting rub on the ribs at the Big Apple Barbecue Block PartyAnd here’s most of the extended crew.

Shane and Lawson Linn from Townsend Spice {blenders of our Magic Dust®} were a huge help every step of the way. David Bogan, die-hard barbecue enthusiast and attorney from Connecticut has volunteered to help us for the past eight years. Randy Kane, a Manhattan management consultant whom I met on Twitter, and Daniel Farrish, Brooklyn resident and son of one of our former Las Vegas managers, worked their third stints. Mike Mrva, John Hulslander, and James Pryor have been participants in multiple Oncue Consulting programs. This was Mike’s second tour of duty. I have to give a special shout out to John Hulslander who pretty much worked around the clock the entire weekend, even in the driving rain, with a huge smile on his face the entire time.

Members of the 17th Street BBQ pit crew people watching at the Big Apple Barbecue Block PartyThis is the best crew we’ve ever had and the many skilled hands made it possible for everyone to enjoy the event as well as work it.

Members of the 17th Street BBQ pit crew putting rub on the ribs at the Big Apple Barbecue Block PartyEach evening we prepped ribs and even though the quantity was huge, we cut no corners. Each rib was inspected, trimmed, and seasoned just the way we do it in our restaurants every day. Part of our crew included pitmasters and restaurateurs who came to volunteer with us and see what this party is all about. Wayne Mueller and Frank Ostini {bottom photo} were a welcome addition to our crew as well.

17th Street BBQ Pit Master Phil sauces ribs at the Big Apple Barbecue Block PartyWayne and Phillip  doing a bit of final saucing and seasoning.

Members of the 17th Street BBQ pit crew cutting ribs at the Big Apple Barbecue Block PartyBecky and I were tremendously proud of our daughters, Faye Landess and Sara. They cut ribs for hours with smiles on their faces – clearly graduates of the Mike Mills School of Strong Work Ethic.

candid photos of Mike Mills, Amy Mills, and the 17th Street BBQ pit crew at the Big Apple Barbecue Block PartyOne of the real gifts of an intense event of this kind is that the relationships within our crew grow even stronger. Working and playing side-by-side, around the clock, for almost a week means learning how to best work together, lots of deep conversations, and strengthened bonds – benefits that last far into the future.

Read more about our Big Apple Barbecue Block Party adventures here

Photos by the outstanding Ken Goodman.  

Leave a Reply

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.