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Big Apple BBQ Festival Earns Sauce-Covered Thumbs Up

By DNAinfo Staff on June 13, 2011 7:39pm

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — After months of debate over the Big Apple BBQ's potential impact on Madison Square Park, neighbors are giving the annual pit-fest two sauce-covered thumbs up.

Some opponents had been concerned about the hordes that come to the park each year, but locals said they were more than happy to play host to the more than 125,000 people who descended on the park over the weekend to chow down on BBQ from some of the nation's top pit masters at the ninth annual event.

"I think it was great," said Gail Elkin-Scott, 44, who's lived in the neighborhood for 17 years and has been a faithful Big Apple attendee for the past four years.

Elkin-Scott said she found the food fest a welcome addition to park events, unlike other large post-parade celebrations that she said "completely overwhelm" the park.

Workers were still busy cleaning grease stains from the BBQ Monday afternoon.
Workers were still busy cleaning grease stains from the BBQ Monday afternoon.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

Her favorite is Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q's smoked sausage from Birmingham, Alabama, she said.

Karen Keavey, who's lived on 24th Street for the past 12 years, agreed the event's size was just right and scoffed when asked if she had any concerns about cleanup.

"Are you kidding? They did an unbelievable job. I can’t believe we had nine million people here," she joked during a trip to the dog park Monday.

Neither 311 nor Community Board 5's district office had received any complaints about trash or noise as of Monday afternoon.

Throughout the day Monday, men worked with power washers to steam clean the sidewalks around the park, which were stained in many placed with splotches of grease and a faint smell of BBQ still lingered in the air.

"The amount of grease and fat is just pretty overwhelming," said cleaning crew site supervisor Kacey Card, 34, who noted that most of the cleaning was finished up the night before.

"We’ve got a pretty good system," he said.

Others, however, were frustrated after the weekend of festivities, which had drawn fierce opposition from some members of Community Board 5, as well as a Facebook page that proclaimed, "The Big Apple BBQ is too Damn Big For Madison Square Park."

Jesse Glasgow, 27, who also lives in the neighborhood, said the event "looked too crowded to be fun," but added that she didn’t mind the crowds — or wafting smell of grilling — so close to home.

"I never have a problem with BBQ smell," she said.

Dog walker Kristi Schritt, 48, who frequently walks her dog in Madison Square Park, said that trying to go anywhere near the park on Saturday was a challenge.

"It was overwhelming," she said of trying to navigate her dogs through the crowds on 26th Street. "It was too much I think for just the corner," she said.

Carole, a volunteer in her fifties who lives on by the north end of the park and declined to give her last name, was also frustrated by the event, which she said seemed to grow bigger by the year.

"It was impossible to walk south much of 26th Street," she complained, adding that the noise for neighbors was at times, "horrendous."

She also took issue with the smell.

"For three solid days, the people around the perimeter of the park are breathing BBQ smoke," she said, adding that even on Monday morning, she could smell the stench of garbage on the street.

Organizers, meanwhile, are already looking ahead to next year's event.

"The weekend was a huge success and we look forward to the 10th Annual Block Party next year," the Union Square Hospitality Group said in a statement.