Battle of the Badges

by Ross Bowen, Tastemaker in Residence

Volunteers from the Minnesota BBQ Society converged on North Commons Park in North Minneapolis on August 15 for the third annual “Battle of the Badges”. The Battle of the Badges is a community-building event spearheaded by the Police, Fire, and Park Police Departments of Minneapolis. Thousands of local residents come into the park each year for free hamburgers and hotdogs, donated by Supervalu, and prepared and served by BBQ Society members. Other volunteers were drawn from public safety officers and their families, City of Minneapolis employees, and local residents who want to help out.

North Minneapolis has a high concentration of poverty and crime. The Police, Fire, and Park Police departments want to build a sense of community and ownership in the community. The goal of the event is to break down barriers between citizens and their public servants to help prevent strife such as we have recently seen around the country.

Other volunteer organizations were also present. MAD DADS - The Minneapolis Chapter of Men Against Destruction – Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder -seeks to bring about positive change, and encourages, motivates and guides committed men and women in the struggle to save children, communities and themselves from the social ills that presently plague neighborhoods. They employ strategies to engage parents in the intervention and prevention of community problems, and attract, challenge, and prepare the parents to be vocal, visible, and vigilant in restoring safe communities and healthy families.

Minneapolis GreenCorps was also there, represented by Aubrey Fonfara and Lance Fischer. This fall Minneapolis will begin collecting organic waste, which will reduce the amount of compostable material going in to our landfills. Fun fact – meat and bones actually are compostable. The reason we have been told not to compost things like this is that it will attract wild animals to our back yards. The city can handle it, however. Good for a BBQ’er to know.

Office Todd Kurth is the face and main organizer of the Battle of the Badges. He had been an officer for 14 years, and currently serves on the Special Detail to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. He created this event three years ago, and knows that the community looks forward to it every year. He believes it is important for the residents to have positive interactions with public servants as often as possible.

John Scharffbillig is the Director of Fleet Services in Minneapolis and a board member of the Minnesota BBQ Society. Officer Kurth reached to him when he found out there was a BBQ Society member working for the city. He was surprised to find out there was a BBQ Society at all! John is known for answering “why we can, not why we can’t”.  

The event is organized around a rib cook-off between the departments, with judges chosen from the local community. Three of our board members are assigned to each organization and bring their expertise and smokers for their use. Randy Appelgren advised the Fire Department, Stan Dobosenski advised the Park Police, and Don Bickford worked with the Police Department. For the third straight year, Don Bickford and the Police were the people’s choice. Congratulations to Don and the Minneapolis Police Department!