PNWBA completes Inaugural Class of Hall of Fame in 2015

By Jessica Erickson

Every year when he announces awards at the Canadian Festival of Chili & BBQ in Langley, BC, Fred Roycroft takes a moment to remind the competitors why we’re there: it’s thanks to the late David and Pat Veljacic, who established this longest-running competition in the Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association (PNWBA). This year, the special thanks turned into a more formal recognition for our Northwest barbecue greats as new members were inducted into the PNWBA Hall of Fame. Fred first recognized the Veljacics for their significant contributions during the seminal years of barbecue in the Northwest, particularly Dave’s service as the first PNWBA president.

PNWBA President Jane Biehl then presented Bob and Sandra Lyon with a plaque honoring their induction into the hall of fame, while Vice President Pat Maddock gave a speech recounting their impact on barbecue in the Northwest and far beyond. The speech moved a lot of the crowd to tears—not only barbecue veterans who recalled the stories he told first hand, but also new cooks who haven’t even been alive for the length of Bob and Sandra’s barbecue tenure.

The PNWBA aptly refers to Bob as “our founding father” and an “ambassador of BBQ.” When chili competitions gained popularity in the 1980s, Bob began introducing barbecue by encouraging and helping his teammate, Jim Erickson, cook and share meat with the competitors. He gained this barbecue knowledge by travelling across the country and even around the world, establishing contacts and using his experience to shape the format of competitions in the Northwest. Bob served the PNWBA as secretary for a number of years. In that role, he published the popular newspaper “Drippings from the Pit,” which had a wide readership that helped fund the PNWBA and grow its members in its formidable years. In addition to establishing this paper, he also contributed regularly as a columnist for the National Barbecue News and the Kansas City Bullsheet until he was well into his 80s!

Of course, no recognition of Bob would be complete without equally honoring his wife and fellow Hall of Fame inductee, Sandra. Her contributions go well beyond supporting and joining Bob’s travel for this crazy hobby—she herself was an active participant who made our competitions possible.  Sandra’s many years of experience as a teacher came in very handy as she took on significant responsibilities planning competitions, organizing volunteers, and ensuring accurate tabulation of ballot sheets in an amazingly efficient manner. Those in the audience who are only familiar with the new computer programs for scoring were especially impressed to hear about the massive number of ballot sheets that Sandra has hand-counted over the years.

Forever the educators, Sandra and Bob have dedicated countless hours to helping train cooks and judges—from novices to experts—to gain greater barbecue skills and appreciation. Among the many popular seminars they organized was an interactive class taught by the “Baron of Barbecue,” Paul Kirk, who flew up to Washington for a number of years for this event.

The four inductees honored at the Langley competition share a common characteristic beyond their dedication to PNWBA in its founding years: the Veljacics and Lyons established competitions that gave back to the community while remaining affordable and fun for competitors. For instance, the Lyons ran a popular barbecue and chili cookoff in Winthrop, WA, and each year donated funds to different community groups like local school bands. Similarly, the Canadian Festival of Chili and BBQ continues to keep entry fees low while still raising thousands of dollars each year to donate to the Fire Fighters Burn Fund (in honor of the late Dave Veljacic’s service as a fire fighter).

As Sandra and Bob accepted their award, they recognized many smiling faces in the audience. Fellow PNWBA Hall of Fame members Lynne Brokaw, Judie Anderson, and Ken “Sarge” Peach were all present as cooks in the chili competition and cheered on Sandra and Bob as they joined the inaugural hall of fame class (which also includes Ed Lavesque and the Veljacics). Bob’s former teammate from the “Beaver Castors,” Jim Erickson, was also at the Langley competition to help coach a new generation of barbecue cooks while personally competing in one of the side categories, the ribeye steak. Dubbed “The Road Team of the 90s” for their unprecedented success in competitions like Jack Daniels and American Royal throughout that decade, Bob and Jim have shared many travel adventures across the country. Sandra and Bob were pleased to have the support of these dear friends and founders who showed they can still cook among the best at the Langley competition—Judie won first place in chili while Jim tied for first place in the steak competition with Smokey’s Bar B Que.

2015 was a milestone year for the PNWBA as it completed its first hall of fame class. The awards ceremony at the Canadian Festival of Chili and BBQ provided the Veljacics and the Lyons with the praise that they so greatly deserve, and it gave the rest of us a chance to reflect on how fortunate we are to have such dedicated founding members and realize how far we have come thanks to their efforts.

Photo by Jessica Erickson
President Jane Biehl presents Sandra and Bob Lyon with a plaque honoring their induction into the PNWBA Hall of Fame.

Photo by Jessica EricksoN
Fred Roycroft with BC Chili Champion Judie Anderson.

Photo by Jessica EricksoN
Judie Anderson and Jim Erickson celebrate first place ribbons.

Photo by Jessica EricksoN
Jim plating what will become the winning entry for the Grill Gates Ribeye Steak Competition. (Notice the vintage apron from the 7th Canadian Festival of Chili and BBQ in 1995!)

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