Fragrant smoke swirled around people dressed in Ravens purple (with a bit of Oriole orange flashing here and there). Cars passing by stopped to listen as music rocked from speakers. It looked like a giant tailgate party — and that's what it was, even if the Ravens had already beaten the Cleveland Browns 23-16 Thursday night.
The tailgate party on Saturday, Sept. 29 brought together four Ravens Roosts to show off their cooking prowess and raise funds for the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department and each Roost's favorite charities.
By the end of the sunny afternoon, the fire department's coffers were $1,000 richer and the winningest Roost was, well, let's call it a tie since they all won about the same number of medals.
This is the fifth year for the Ravens Roost Tailgate Cook-off. The Roosts are 69, Ellicott City; 79, Windsor Mill; 88 Catonsville/Ellicott City; and hosting this year's event 97, Arbutus/Maiden Choice. Roost 117, a Catonsville group, has participated in past years but this year did not. A member of their group, Ed Young, served as a judge. Roost 79 hosted the original event behind Fox Chevrolet.
Prizes were awarded in eight categories: beef, pork/poultry, game, wet barbecue, dry barbecue, chili, side dishes and desserts. Game could include fish, deer and other wild animals. "One year a snake showed up," said Sharon McCain of Roost 97. "That was interesting."
Besides food, the cook-off featured music, raffles and a silent sports auction. This is the second year the beneficiary was the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department.
"All five Roosts vote on where to have it and choose the charity," McCain said.
The competition started almost as soon as the sun was up. The first grills were fired up about 7 a.m. By 9 o'clock, each Roost has its own section set up with all kinds of grills, from stainless steel gas grills to a converted 55-gallon drum fragrant with wood smoke. More than 100 people arrived by the noon opening to taste the Roosts' offerings and the party lasted until medals were awarded about 4.
Competitors' tables were laden with all the foods you'd want to find at a tailgate. Roost 69 had ribs, mac and cheese, pulled pork and rum cake.
Roost 88 was serving up chili, pulled pork, smoked gouda mac and cheese, and Grand Marnier cake.
Roost 79 brought only their wood-smoked ribs for the competition but by "game time" their tables were stocked for the party.
Roost 97 offered ribs, beef, two kinds of beans, peach cobbler and apple pies.
Judges included two NFL Hall of Fame "superfans," Captain Dee-Fense and Purple Dame, as well as Young and radio host Bill West, a member of Roost 15 and host of the Purple Pride Sports Show on WQLL 1370 AM.
"You have to be careful to taste and not eat," Captain Dee-Fense said, an array of offerings spread before him as the judging went on.
"I'm really impressed by all the delicious foods here," said Purple Dame.
West, whose Roost began at the Sulphur Spring Inn but now meets in southwest Baltimore, praised the efforts of these fan clubs — and all the Roosts. He noted that they date their beginnings in 1957 with the formation of the first Colts Corrals. The clubs never stopped meeting and transformed into the Ravens Roosts when the team first put on the purple uniforms.
"Our prime objective — besides having a good time — is to do good things for charity and help the neighborhood," said Bruce Strange, who cooked several of the winning entries for Roost 97.
Not everyone attending the cook-off was a member of a Ravens Roost. It helped to be a Ravens fan, of course.
Dorothy Dustmann and her family were decked out in purple — and they came in gratitude to Roost 97 which gave her tickets to a Ravens game for her son when he was sick. "This is a good way to support them, to pay back," she said.
"It's a great activity for Arbutus," added Donna Wright, of Catonsville.
Donald Gutberlet, financial secretary for the fire department, was grateful for the cook-off's proceeds. "It'll go to help support new equipment for the squad," he said, noting that the department is in the process of buying a new rescue truck and $12,000 worth of new equipment.
"We all love the Ravens and support them but our main focus is to support our charities as we support our Ravens," said Sharon Jackson of Roost 88.
"We're not the best cooks," she added, "but we're the happiest."