Through its highs and lows, Flames on the Flint was a joy to be a part of

Published 8:24 pm Friday, March 20, 2015

The 12th annual River Town Days and the accompanying second annual Flames on the Flint BBQ Cook Off, both held last weekend at the Earle May Boat Basin, were huge successes. After a week-long ominous weather forecast, the skies cleared Saturday and the weather was near perfect for the estimated 8,000 attendees.
I hope you had a chance to attend and enjoy the sights and sounds, and if not, you’ll have a chance on the same weekend next year.
While the Flames on the Flint, in only its second year of existence, was unbelievably well received by everyone involved, the contest ended late Saturday afternoon on a tragic note.
Bill Allen, a pit master and all around great guy from New Jersey, sadly passed away late Saturday afternoon about an hour after the BBQ cook off awards presentations.
Bill, who had been battling heath issues recently, walked from the performing arts building in the boat basin over to his camp on the banks of the river holding the first place trophy in the chicken category. Yep, Bill cooked the best chicken that day of the 73 teams competing.
Not only did he cook the best chicken, he earned a rare perfect score from the judges.  Less than an hour later, he was gone.
While my exposure to professional BBQ events is extremely limited—I have only attended two events, the last two Flames on the Flint events—what I saw during and after Bill’s passing has led me to become a huge fan of the camaraderie and relationships that are obviously evident among these teams.
After Bill collapsed at his cooking site, Dr. Shawn Surratt, a local physician, and local resident Chuck Taylor immediately started treating him. Both Dr. Surratt and Taylor were at the event as part of a BBQ cooking team and were thankfully close by.
While waiting for the Decatur County Emergency personnel to arrive, and after the ambulance arrived, Dr. Surratt worked unbelievably hard in an attempt to save Bill, but to no avail. Kudos to Dr. Surratt and the other first responders for their efforts.
After the ambulance left the scene, transporting Bill to Memorial Hospital, what I witnessed next was incredible. Without a word being spoken, roughly 20 of the competitors ascended on Bill’s camp and began packing it up. Wiping down tables, packing up supplies and taking down tents. Not a word was said, they just did it. It was a surreal moment and one that I will not soon forget.
Then, one of the competitors asked Kevin Dowdy, the current Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, if there was a tire store around to change the tires on Bill’s trailer. He was concerned about the condition of the tires and whether or not they would make the trip back to New Jersey. Kevin called Jeff Lynn of Delta Tire at about 5 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and, within an hour, the trailer had two new tires.
Lost in all the confusion and the attempts to get Bill medical attention, his partner, Bruce Josey, was left somewhat lost. Bruce is from Maryland and had ridden with Bill in Bill’s vehicle to Bainbridge. After Bruce returned to the Boat Basin from the hospital, the Chamber of Commerce arranged a hotel room for Bruce and also purchased an airplane ticket to get Bruce back home to Maryland.
I was very proud of how Flames on the Flint turned out; it was a great event. But I am even more proud to be associated with and friends with folks who poured responded in such an awesome way to a tragic event.
Ronnie Godwin, Merritt Godwin Ryan Giddens, Mark Esquivel, Kevin Dowdy, Dr. Shawn Surratt, Chuck Taylor, Adrienne Harrison, Ali Dowdy,Jeff Lynn and all the others who were involved—thank you. Thank you for going over and beyond. I am proud to call you friends. And God Bless Bill Allen of Hollywood and Swine BBQ team and his family.

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