From zesty pork tacos to prime rib, barbeque was in the air at the West River Ice Center during the 9th Annual Bakken BBQ as a large crowd flooded the parking lot throughout Friday evening. Usually those who serve on the front lines are dressed in either their blue uniforms and badges or yellow helmets and tan firefighter suits, but with this year’s theme being first responders, they were spotted wearing aprons and ready for a grill-off to help benefit Make-A-Wish North Dakota.
More than 3,500 people convened at the 9th Annual Bakken BBQ, marking it the largest gathering for the event in its history as well as the most amount of meat cooked — more than 5,200 pounds.
“It was absolutely insane. We had people still coming in at 8 to 9 o'clock at night, and they just kept on coming,” Bakken BBQ co-founder Tiffany Steiner said on Monday.
A total of 35 companies, ranging from oilfield companies to first responder departments, cooked at the event. Claiming the barbeque trophy was first-place winners Devon Energy, followed by Creedence Energy for second place and the Dickinson Police Department in third.
“I don’t even know how to explain it. (There were) so many people, and they all had a blast. They all came out for a good cause. We had no issues and it was just really unique and you could tell people are there to support the cause — Make-A-Wish and other area charities,” Steiner said, adding, “I know a lot of people had to walk a half a mile to get to the event center… (but) people just trucked it out and they didn’t complain about it at all.”
Along with the Dickinson Police Department, five other local emergency departments participated in the barbecue cook-off, including the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, Dunn County Sheriff’s Department, Sanford AirMed, Dickinson Rural Fire Department Dive and Rescue and the Dickinson Fire Department.
For many of the first responders, this event is a way to give back to the community.
“Well I think it highlights a lot of things that are happening here in western North Dakota, the Bakken and the oil region. It’s a way for a lot of those organizations… (to give) back to the community,” Lt. Eldon Mehrer of the Stark County Sheriff’s Office said. “And again, from the sheriff's office and the deputies association, we're just happy to be part of that.”
Throughout the evening, the Bakken BBQ Committee hosted a live auction that included items from the Dickinson police and fire departments and helped go toward benefiting Make-A-Wish North Dakota. The committee also recognized some of the Make-A-Wish recipients who have been granted wishes in the past. Then, in a special presentation, Kelly Braun, president of the Dickinson Noon Lions and longtime advocate for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, shared to the crowd that a young girl will be granted her wish of building her very own playhouse.
For the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office, this was also their first time being a part of this event and decided to give it a whirl.
“It was an honor (being) first responders,” Dunn County Sheriff Gary Kuhn said. “We’re first responders and this is something that would support all other first responders out, and it goes to a good cause. Make-A-Wish Foundation is a really good cause.”
The family-friendly night featured raffle tickets with more than $20,000 in prizes for $10 a ticket, bull riding as well as a kiddie corner with face painting, jumping castles and games.
“The oilfield has given a lot to the community,” Kuhn said. “It's created a lot of different things that we've never had to deal with in the past, but it gives the community the opportunity to talk to them. And if they have questions about things, I think they can talk to the oilfield themselves and ask them about some of those legal topics that are out there.”
Steiner noted that 2022’s 10th Annual Bakken BBQ is going to be even bigger yet. But for now, the Bakken BBQ Committee is satisfied with another successful event in Dickinson.
“One, we can take a breath and say that we’ve accomplished one of the largest events I would say in the southwest North Dakota area. Two, we have 12 people total on our committee and I can say that we have worked tirelessly throughout the year to accomplish this event, and I think it showed. Everyone had amazing things to say and compliments for the committee and it is truly hats off to everyone that works on this event, as well as sponsors, cookers, the judges, emcee, all those people that do give back to our event,” she added.