LAKE PLACID - A little rain could not dowse the excitement at the fourth annual Lake Placid I Love Barbecue festival July 3-5.
Thousands of visitors made their way to the old speed skating oval, braving the wet weather to enjoy some expertly-grilled meats while supporting a keystone in the community.
Since its inception in 2005, the ILBBQF has raised an average of over $20,000 for the Thomas Shipman Youth Center each year. Organizers said this year was no different, even though the rain may have discouraged some from attending.
"Regardless of the weather, people are going to come," said Gary Moore. "You don't find barbecue in the Adirondacks of the caliber that's here."
One of several local vendors at the event, Moore's Lake Placid- and Saranac Lake-based business, Bear Essentials prints t-shirts for the event, and donates 20 percent of their sales to the Shipman Center as a sponsor.
Jon Fremante, director of the Shipman Youth Center, said the ILBBQF acts as a nice compliment to many other Fourth of July weekend activities hosted in Lake Placid.
"It's nice to see that we're becoming a regular part of the routine for people coming up in the summer," Fremante said.
25 youth volunteers from the Shipman Center attended throughout the weekend, helping to run inflatable rides, games and activities for children and raising funds through beverage sales.
"Their personal involvement is great," said Dmitry Feld, the board president of the Shipman Youth Center and director of the ILBBQF. "I think they are aware of everyone coming out to support them, but it's also about being good citizens."
The ILBBQF draws dozens of competitors from across the United States, Canada and even Great Britain. Sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, it is one of several stops these amateur and professional teams make as they compete in barbecue contests throughout the summer.
"This is one of the great venues," said KCBS board member Linda Mullane. "Because it's Lake Placid, everybody wants to come here."
This year's festival also saw the advent of the I Love Barbecue Junior World Championships, the first KCBS-sanctioned competition specifically for youth. Mullane said it was successful, despite only having four teams competing.
"We've never had anything like this before, and we hope it's going to grow and expand to other cities," Mullane said.
Youth age 16-21 teamed up with friends to cook a complete meal, barbecuing all three meats as well as a vegetable and starch. They also had to assemble a dessert.
"It was hard because you had to make things that weren't really meant to be made on a grill, like rice pilaf or potatoes," said Nick Zonfrillo, a 17-year-old competitor from Rhode Island.
Not only could youth compete for cash prizes, but also for scholarships to Paul Smith's College, a school highly regarded for its Culinary Arts program.
"Having them offer the scholarship is really cool," said Nick's father, Paul Zonfrillo. "It's a great way for the college to find some culinary talent."
As always, the festival had a constant stream of live music including several local and regional bands. Legendary zydeco artist C.J. Chenier headlined the event.
"C.J. was a big draw this year," said Gordy Sheer, who organizes entertainment for the event together with Jim Cushman. "We try to do one or two nationally touring bands each year."
Sheer and Cushman volunteer weekly at the Shipman Youth Center, helping lead youth in Monday night jam sessions. Several of the youth performed as a band at the festival.
"The rain put a lot of pressure on everybody," said Sheer, noting the hard work it took to keep sound equipment dry and operational. "It only gets done because we care about the Shipman Youth Center."