By Gerald Dlubala
The plumes of smoke from state and local parks, recreation areas and gathering places reach toward the sky carrying that familiar aroma of meat being introduced on park grills.
And everywhere you turn, there’s going to be an amateur pitmaster firing up that park grill in the hopes of producing competition-worthy food for his friends and family.
In fact, many families now have their own yearly competitions just to lay claim as the pitmaster of the year.
Public parks are natural places for these family gatherings, as well as reunions, holiday get-togethers and special occasions.
Why wouldn’t they be?
The availability of park grills, pavilions, picnic benches, the wide-open spaces and the fresh outdoor air are all attractive and conducive to both organized activities and impromptu gatherings.
Park grills in greater demand with boom in barbecuing
The rise in popularity in the barbecue and grilling industry is leading more outdoor enthusiasts to plan a grilled meal rather than simple cold cut sandwiches.
Everyone’s a pit master these days, and wants to be “the guy” when it comes to manning the charcoal grill.
Grilling provides another level to any outdoor experience, but also encourages a sense of community and friendship along the way. Everybody loves the griller!
But that same popularity means it will be hard to find a park grill to use during peak season. It takes an early bird approach to secure a site with an available grill.
So there you are, watching the pickups and SUVs go down the road hauling grills and coolers to their festivities.
This verifies the fact that people will go to extremes if they want to grill, even to the point of going through the hassle of loading their own grill up into their vehicle, unloading it, firing it up, and then waiting for it to cool before reloading it to take back home. That is true grilling desire and barbecue dedication.
Are you prepared?
And then it hits you. These people are headed to a park or event space, and bringing their own grills. They obviously feel that the grills provided in our parks, apartment complexes, and outdoor spaces aren’t numerous enough or large enough for their planned menu. For some larger gatherings, they may be right.
With the popularity of food-based television shows and grilling competitions, the traditional size outdoor park grills may not handle the new grilling trends.
Parties are getting a little more extravagant, menus a little more upscale. Barbecue is no longer synonymous with preformed, frozen burger patties and hot dogs.
When talking about an all-day event or gathering, a rack or two of ribs, a big portion of pork or beef, or even whole chickens may be on the menu. Heck, now we can even add a cast iron Dutch oven to slowly cook a delicious dessert or keep food warmed and at the ready for all day snacking.
Build a sense of community with plenty of park grills
Your space needs to accommodate this trend and become a destination venue for get-togethers.
There’s something inherently pleasing about having a successful, large-scale gathering in the outdoors.
An apartment complex that caters to their residents by supplying a shared gathering space with a large outdoor cooking area is much more likely to attract residents and promote a neighborly, community atmosphere than a colder looking building with individual grills and chairs sitting in a smaller, backyard space.
Look at your gathering spaces such as courtyards, pavilions, lake areas, or any area with available seating or picnic tables.
Where will that next barbecue champion raise his tongs and proclaim his ribs to be the best in the family?
Where will that finicky child be introduced to a pulled pork sandwich, showing their satisfaction with that sauced up smile?
When was the last time the residents of your apartment complex had a relaxing, family friendly, night out together, laughing and learning about each other, and building caring relationships towards each other?
Large commercial charcoal grills are the perfect complement to these types of events, and will no doubt be in demand. Some mounted large park grills are now super-sized with as much as 1,350 square inches of cooking surface.
It starts with realizing the trend towards bigger and better outdoor events with grilling intertwined as the food source.
It happens by outfitting your venue with at least one high capacity park grill for large gatherings. Even with multiple grillers, a premium large grill can accommodate individual food choices.
Bigger park grills will also allow for options in heat needs, from hot dog or steak searing to low-and-slow for chicken and pork, to even a side area dedicated to just keeping food safe and warm.
Reduce waste and safety concerns
Another benefit of having large park grills available is the reduction of charcoal use and waste.
Shared space like parks, courtyards, sports tournament venues, or apartment complexes can promote community and neighborly interaction with a shared, large grill combined with promotions, member, resident or tenant events.
How can your park or apartment complex put on a grilling contest, a neighborhood block party, or a weekend camping event centered around grilling or grilled foods?
With safety always a concern, you can take the worry out of visitors bringing multiple grills, setting them up in random, sometimes unsafe areas
By installing larger, community-based grills in your designated safe areas, you are effectively controlling where the fires and hot embers are located within your space.
Keeping fires contained in an area they were meant to be, in a park grill built for safety, security, and hot ember control is peace of mind.
And who knows?
You may just be lucky enough to be chosen as that impartial judge standing next to that big park grill for that barbecue tasting.